“To shitpost, you have to understand the subject,” deadpans Antimatter founder Jonathan Libow. “In a sense, shitposting is the highest form of consciousness.”
As silly as it sounds, Libow is on to something. With a five-person team and some venture funding, Antimatter is building the most innovative educational technology company on the market with a simple premise: To make a good memory of a subject, you need to know what you’re talking about.
“I talked to my best friend from college, who is now a high school history teacher, and he said, ‘I use memes all the time in the classroom,'” Libow said. His friend introduced him to the concept of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which describes how students retain what they learn. If a student memorizes vocabulary words for a quiz, they can brainstorm flash cards the night before the test, get an A, and then forget what they learned. But the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is creating 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 gag,” Libow said. “[Memes] These are the shortest stories ever invented by humans, and it does a great job for teachers to make sure students understand the topic.
After holding 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-making tool to make a joke about the latest lesson in their AP European History class, or illustrate a physics concept best illustrated with visual aids — this functionality was originally designed. Its own mobile app Last year, the Antimatter team was surprised that a better meme generator didn’t already exist. In Studio, students can comment on each other’s memes or “bless” a meme by upvoting it.
Libov, a former analyst at Union Square Ventures and product lead at Bloomberg LP, got the idea for Antimatter from his own experiences online.
“I’m on the Physics Memes subreddit and Daily Roman updates on Twitter,” Libow told Technology Flow.
Accounts like History Memes Explained on Instagram really drive the idea home — the page not only shares memes, but also adds an explanation explaining the history behind the meme, so those who don’t understand the meme can learn something new.
Antimatter is currently free for teachers, however, Libow thinks Antimatter could try to monetize by selling subscriptions. If student teachers aren’t using Antimatter, they can still participate by searching for topics they want to learn more about or posting their own educational memes. As with any online information repository, there is concern that some users will post false memes — but when in a classroom, for example, students and teachers can talk among themselves about why a meme needs some work.
“Ultimately, we want to rewrite Wikipedia in memes, shitposts, animation and video,” Libow said.