“To be able to shitpost, you have to really understand the subject,” said Jonathan Libov, founder of Antimatter. “In a sense, shitposting is the highest form of consciousness.”
Crazy as it sounds, Libov is onto something. With a five-person team and a little venture capital, Antimatter builds the most memey educational technology company on the market with a simple premise: to make a good meme on a subject, you need to know what you’re talking about.
“I spoke to my best friend from college, who is now a high school history teacher, and he said, ‘I use memes in class all the time,’” Libov said. His friend introduced him to the concept of Bloom’s taxonomy, an educational framework that explains how students best remember what they learn. If a student memorizes words for a quiz, they can cram flashcards into their brains the night before the test, get a 10, and then forget what they learned. But the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to create something new based on what you’ve learned. Students probably don’t have time to write a three-act play about how World War I started, but they can make a meme about it.
“It’s not just a joke,” Libov said. “[Memes] are just the tiniest stories people have made up, which is a great assignment for teachers to make sure students understand the subject.”
After running a private beta in the spring, Antimatter is now open to any teacher to register and create a “studio” for their class. Then students can use Antimatter’s built-in meme tool to joke about the last lesson in their AP European History lesson, or illustrate a physics concept best explained with visual aids – this functionality was actually developed into its own mobile app last year, because the Antimatter team was surprised that a better meme generator didn’t exist yet. Within the studio, students can also comment on each other’s memes, or “bless” a meme by voting for it.
Libov, a former analyst at Union Square Ventures and product lead at Bloomberg LP, got the idea for Antimatter from his own online experiences.
But accounts like History Memes Explained on Instagram really brought home the idea – not only does the page share memes, but it also adds a description that explains the history behind the meme so that those who don’t understand the meme can learn something new.
Antimatter is currently free for teachers, although Libov later thinks Antimatter can make money by selling subscriptions. If a student’s teacher isn’t using Antimatter, they can still participate by searching for topics they want to learn more about, or by posting their own educational memes. Like any online repository of information, there’s a concern that some users might post fake memes — but when they’re in a classroom, say, students and teachers can chat amongst themselves about why a meme might need some work.
“Ultimately, we want to rewrite Wikipedia into memes, shitposts, animation and video,” Libov said.