Back in 1975, Alan Dundes and Carl R. Pagter published the first in a series of Urban Folklore From the Paperwork Empire books, in which they catalogued an assortment of material — drawings (most with captions or other text on them) and slogan signs — created by office workers, photographically reproduced, and distributed through office mail. In addition, “dirty” drawings and pictures were passed from hand to hand, just as “dirty” jokes spread by word of mouth. All of this material cycled informally, and (like classic folklore) no one had any real idea where it came from, beyond the person who gave it to you, nor did people care about that.
This dissemination of subterranean cultural material continues, but now mostly by digital means. And at a vastly increased rate. And a fair amount of it is the same stuff that used to be passed around the office.
In any case, few people care about the source of the stuff that comes their way — an attitude that distresses me with respect to cartoons and obvious artistic creations and makes me uneasy in lots of other cases. Meanwhile, some of my friends treat my attitudes as charming academic eccentricities that don’t, and shouldn’t, concern ordinary people.