Nyan Cat visits the MIT SHASS Great Ideas Exhibit
Decides to stay 

The Nyan Cat, first installed by MIT hackers in Lobby 7 in the fall of 2011, is now on permanent display in the MIT SHASS "Great Ideas" exhibit in the lobby of Building 14. 

This is an MIT student work portraying the popular internet meme, Nyan Cat (or Pop-Tart Cat), an 8-bit animation depicting a cat with the body of a cherry pop tart who flies through outer space leaving a rainbow trail. For the exhibit space, Nyan Cat is sporting a festive, silver lamé trail. 

Warm thanks to the MIT student hackers for generously contributing their Nyan Cat to the School's exhibit, and to Professor Ian Condry (MIT CMS) for his commentary on the Cat's active, global life.  

Nyan Cat and the Future of Media

Commentary by Ian Condry
Associate Professor, Comparative Media Studies
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Nyan Cat, an Internet meme par excellence, illustrates a remarkable aspect of contemporary media: participatory online communities can produce hit phenomena that rival those of major corporations.

Nyan Cat appeared online in April 2011 as an animated GIF of a “Pop Tart Cat” created for fun by Dallas illustrator Christopher Torres, who produces the LOL Comics site. Someone else added music from voice synthesizer software from Japan (“nyan” is Japanese for “meow”). The resulting video exploded in popularity globally (51M views and counting), appropriated and transformed in countless ways. Amazing-nyan. 

Nyan Cats representing France, Russia, and Denmark

Why do memes like this spread? 

Memes are valuable in our social lives. We like sharing what’s new and quirky, and we appreciate friends who keep us in-the-know. Media is not simply something we watch, listen to, or consume; media helps us connect with others.  

Well-known memes are fun to remix too, because we can build on and subvert familiarity. Memes with a fan base operate as a kind of creative platform, endlessly adaptable and blessed with a ready-made audience. Nyan Cat suggests that the future of media innovation may hinge on creating participatory platforms as much as virtuosic content. 

About MIT Comparative Media Studies (CMS)

In CMS, we explore social dynamics like these to better understand how media is changing. Our emphasis on comparativity—across cultures, eras, technologies, and disciplines—informs a wide range of research and teaching: civic engagement; video games, film and other forms of popular culture; media histories and global flows; electronic literature, and more.
MIT Comparative Media Studies


MIT-Nyan Cat, installed in MIT Lobby 7, September 2011 
photocredit: Greg Steinbrecher, The Tech

Suggested Links

Ian Condry

Comparative Media Studies

MIT-SHASS Great Ideas Exhibit 

Common Threads
Three-minute video clip traces the rise of the sciences, humanities, arts, and social sciences at MIT. Winston Churchill makes an appearance. 

L and R: Nyan Cats representing Italy and Mexico; Center: Professor Ian Condry