But What Does it All Really Meme????

Well, well, well…

If I’m not back at it again discussing memes. Have I ever left the conversation???

Making Meme-ing Okay I’ll stop

So, you may have guessed it already, but this week’s class topic was memes. We spent most of class discussing what memes are, what memes can be, what memes we interact with (if we do interact with them at all), and how memes can be used online. I spent most of class trying not to open my big mouth on the subject lol For me, I found it interesting to hear how people interacted with memes and how they used them in their daily life. As expected few people created their own memes and even fewer people “memed” their own lives–i.e. created memes from their own source material. In my own research I’ve done on the topic, this seems to be the case for most people. We share and perpetuate memes in online spaces but only a few people contribute to the “remixing” of memes that allows for their replication and heavily contributes to what makes memes interesting to share.

Briefly, we did discuss replication and propagation of memes in online spaces a la Dawkins (1976). In Dawkins The Selfish Gene, the meme is defined as a “unit of cultural transmission” and can really include all manner of things a contemporary memer would not attribute to memes now. Dawkins proposed that memes are these things that get stuck in our brains and are transferred from one human to the next via mimicry. He equates this process to biological processes of replication and reproduction, most notably comparing meme replication to gene replication. For me and many other mimetic researchers, this definition is vague and problematic in many ways. Most notably, the comparison between memes and biological processes seems erroneous at best. Also, the definition of meme is never quite nailed down and so leaves open the possibility that anything could be a meme. Were the Internet not to be a thing that exists, these issues may not be so big. But, with the onset of the Internet, a very particular body of memes has risen up and complicates/challenges Dawkins original conceptions making parts of his seminal work kind of obsolete…

Anyway, all this is to say that researchers as well as people like myself and my classmates do have some rather interesting thoughts on memes and the purposes they serve–in culture, in society, in politics, for communication, for expression of self, etc. I myself have waxed poetic about memes on many occasions–such as this one, this onethis one, this one, and this one. Additionally, you can find me raving about memes on the regular on my thesis blog. So, I don’t want to waste my breath too much repeating myself on the subject. I love the content and the discourse but I really can exhaust myself.

I will say that I think memes are a valuable kind of sociocultural currency and that I believe they contain within them a greater depth of meaning than many established entities would like us to believe. To me, memes contain multitudes. More, memes contain us. They are representative of our beliefs and values but also our doubts and our experiences of disillusionment with life. More than mere social commentary, I view memes as a kind of rejection of traditional logic and established traditions. They are a means through which we can all play the part of Anonymous and express how we truly may feel when we think about power systems and our places within these systems. The threshold for entering into this kind of dialogue is that you have a computer and you have a lot of repressed feelings about the downward spiral known as your life in this day and age. Low threshold. Most twenty-somethings clear it. Easy.

In this way, memes are the voice of a generation. They are the voice of the repressed and the oppressed and the distressed. Memes are how we resist the system that would have us sit down, shut up, and eat what we’re told to swallow. They’re how we resist and we subvert the traditional logic and value systems that the current powers that be demand we accept because. Because that logic and those systems keep them in power. Keep them unchallenged.

I think a lot of news outlets, publications, and other authorities cast memes and other emergent forms of digital content creation like gifs and shitposting as inherently meaningless and degenerate because, yes, they benefit from doing so and from repressing the voice of a disillusioned and unsatisfied generation but also because they simply don’t get it. They don’t get memes. They don’t get shitposting. They don’t get that that’s the point–that they don’t get it. Like the OG Degenerate Art, Degenerate Art 2.0 galvanizes and politicizes nonsense. It is purposefully absurd. It is not meant to be easily classified and shoved aside like so many  people have been in their own lives. More, the absurdity expressed within emergent forms of digital content creation acts like a mirror, reflecting the absolute absurdity that is real life right now. I mean, have you seen some of the news headlines lately??? A US government shutdown for how many days??? It’s absurd. Unreal. And, memes are responding to that nonsense. They are a reflection of it.

If memes and other new forms of digital content creation seem absurd, it’s because the world is absurd. We are absurd. Life is one absurdity after another. We can either laugh about it or cry. Why not both????

Ultimately, for me, memes and shitposting embody Hugo Ball’s (1916) “this humiliating age has not succeeded in winning our respect” sentiment. Memes are the fuck you and the horse you rode in on of the twenty-first century. They are how we speak our truths to power. How we bring power back down to earth. Remind power that respect is something that can only be earned through respectable actions. Remind power that it can easily be made a fool of.

Maybe I’m thinking too deeply on the subject. Maybe onto to Big Brother.

Either way, let me know what you think~

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My Make

This week, we had to meme a topic from our discussions about online issues. Very difficult, I know ^.^ Anyway, I chose to meme government surveillance in the US. I think I’m pretty funny but you guys be the judge~

Bonus Posts

This week, because of Spring Break, I’ve got two extra posts to share.

My first post is all about me doing the complete opposite of what I discussed in this post and assigning specific, logical meaning to memes in order to create a narrative out of five memes. It pained me greatly. Please check it out!

My second post is another contribution to the class Field Guide. In this post, I explore and reflect upon an article that discusses what makes a meme more fit than another meme. I get to discuss “meme death”. Quite a fun topic. Definitely recommend checking out~

Daily Digital Alchemies

In my first DDA, I shared a map of the dark fantasy world created by one of my fave authors, Leigh Bardugo. Her writing inspires me to write unapologetically and she inspires me to be apologetically myself.

In my second DDA, I share some of my fave digital artists. All of these artists are a part of my thesis and their work has greatly informed my own. I admire each of these artists and highly, highly recommend checking out their work. (I’m so excited to get to hear Alex Saum talk about her work in class soon!)

~Till next time~

The Lifespan of Memes~

This too shall pass~

shallnot pass

Or will it????

Hey~

So, in the course of working on my thesis, I’ve read a lot of articles and research studies about memes. Some articles focus on the spread and replication of memes through a system while others focus on the sociocultural impact of the meme and its semantic and communicative applications. Very boring stuff. Not the topic–the writing on the topic. It’s almost like mimetic researchers have something to prove…

Anyway, rather than bore you with some of those useful but admittedly snooze-worthy sources, I thought I’d share one of the more “fun” articles I came across in my research on memes. This article by Lauren Michele Jackson, published in The Atlantic, explores why some memes are more fit than others and tend to have a longer shelf-life (i.e. remain in the public consciousness longer). More, this article looks at “meme-death” and what elements a successful meme needs to have in order to propagate in or current social system.

Though not an academic article per se, Jackson does draw upon mimetic research to define the internet meme as well as to critique the antiquated definition (calling Dawkins (1976) concept “deliberately capacious”–which is fair). To Jackson, though, it seems more apt to define the current Internet meme as a kind of joke. Jackson states, “memes as they’re popularly discussed nowadays often index something much more specific—a phrase or set of text, often coupled with an image, that follows a certain format within which user adjustments can be made before being redistributed to amuse others. Also known as: a joke”. While memes often inspire humor and laughter, that is not the main reason for why Jackson compares the meme to a joke. It is the shared quality of jokes and memes to “uniquely and deliberately make depth inconsequential to their appreciation” that Jackson cites as the main reason for why the two mediums are comparable. Essentially, counter to every proud mimetic theorist out there, Jackson believes that the most defining quality of the meme is that its meaning is shallow. Or, at the very least, it does not matter if a meme means anything deep or profound; people are not thinking that hard about it and that is the point. As reiterated multiple times in this article: jokes just aren’t funny anymore once explained. Once a meme has been explained or becomes so popular that it is no longer popular, it dies.

Jackson’s thoughts on the meme and a meme’s life are quite interesting. While I disagree with her on the “shallowness” of meme’s meanings, I do find myself agreeing with the idea that more successful memes are ones whose meanings can be easily co-opted. Essentially, the template can be recycled and the meaning swapped out for another but the impact still remains. This, to me, indicates that there has to be some kind of inherent, deep-seated meaning in a template that underlies any superimposed nuance. That inherent meaning, I believe, is dependent upon the cultural context in which the meme is dependent. This is something Jackson seems to agree with me on. According to Jackson, “Memes capture and maintain people’s attention in a given moment because something about that moment provides a context that makes that meme attractive”. Once that context passes, it’s time for new memes. If a meme is not attuned to public sentiment at a certain time, it is no longer relevant.

Jackson ends her article by stating, “We create and pass on the things that call to our current experiences and situations. Memes are us.” Which I think it a very provocative idea. When memes are looked at as extensions of ourselves rather than disconnected means of communication–removed, to some degree, from us–I believe memes become easier to understand. At least, it’s easier to accept the complexity and multiplicity of this emergent medium when the human element is introduced into the conversation rather than viewed separately. The relationship between human and meme becomes more symbiotic than parasitic.

But, that’s just what I think.

Let me know if you have a different perspective. I’d love to hear it~

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~Till next time~

Five Meme Story? Say No More~

Really, say no more. Never do this to us again.

Creating A Narrative Across Memes

It sounds like a fun and inventive idea but bruh, this was not easy. Memes are these concise, little story units unto themselves and combining them is not a simple task. Even trying to get meme templates to “jive” with each other is challenging. Also, I find it difficult to superimpose another meaning atop a meme with a strong context of it own, especially if that meaning is not necessarily in the “spirit” of the meme. For example, this activity asked us to create a cohesive narrative out of five memes about how digital alchemy can combat darkness online which is a very serious and direct topic that can conflict with the free-spirited, lackadaisical, nonsensical, often subversive nature of most memes. Similarly to how providing attribution to memes online is kind of antithetical to the free-access, anti-establishment medium in some ways, attributing a serious, “this is a real problem” meaning to a meme seems somehow contradictory. Maybe that’s just me though and everyone else had a grand ol’ time doing this activity. Idk. I’m one memer of many. Perhaps I’m also over thinking the task or I’m not creative enough for it. That said, I did not particularly enjoy this activity.

Still did it, tho. With varying success.

You be the judge of my handiwork:

Click to view slideshow.You get the story? I hope so!

I meant for this work to be a commentary on how, often, a lack of input from invested and engaged citizenry in sociopolitical decision-making processes can be just as great a contributing factor to many of the issues we now face with the internet as unregulated data tracking and surveillance. In order for positive changes to occur in America specifically, we as citizens of the country are going to need to step up and activate the power we can have as a collective of concerned individuals. I hope at least part of that message got through (in a nice enough way). Another challenge I faced in doing this activity is that I don’t usually write positive stories??? I like writing harsh words filled with “mean” and mercurial characters that are able to give as good as they get from an unapologetically brutal world. Anyway.

Here’s a more comprehensive breakdown of the images I sourced to create this story:

  1. classmemeThe first image used makes use of the Distracted Boyfriend meme template and was sourced from the Somniporta’s “A Meme Countering Internet Darkness” collection. The meme in the collection is titled “Helllooooo” and is described as a meme intended to emphasize the growing disconnect between increasingly digital surveillance of American citizens and common sense. It was created using the imgflip Meme Generator. I think is opens discussion and allows for a dialogue to occur around it. I use it in my story as exposition.
  2. IMG_7352The second image used is a bit of a cheat in that it’s a Twitter post. That said, I do believe it is an example of “shitposting” (sharing purposeful nonsense online) which falls under the larger purview of memes because shitposting can also be classified as a unit of cultural transmission that spreads via inspiring further iterations of itself or the idea contained within. This post comes from @sosadtoday and I believe was posted during the US government shutdown(?) so it may have originally been referencing that. I use it to introduce a problem/create rising action.
  3. batmanmemeThis third image was one I created using the imgflip Meme Generator. I used the “My Parents Are Dead/Batman Slapping Robin” meme template. I use it to address the previously introduced action–that everything going on online is stupid and contradicts common sense. I guess it’s the climax of my story? It addresses preconceived notions about the previously stated problem head-on and demands a reevaluation of those ideas.
  4. hardpilltoswallowmemeMy fourth image was made using the “Hard to Swallow Pills” meme template and was also created using imgflip Meme Generator. I use it to summarize what was really implied by the last image–that change, in regards to the problem at hand (lol), is possible and within reach. This change, though, require reflection on our part and action that addresses some of the roots of the problems currently occurring in unregulated, online arenas. It’s my denouement, I guess.
  5. 2019-03-14 (2)My fifth and final meme makes use of a lesser-known text-based meme format that is known as the “Inappropriate Audition Songs” meme. (Read even more about the format here and check out more examples.) I used the template provided for it (hi i’m auditioning for the role of [characterand i’ll be singing [song that is inappropriate for the role]) and created my own version of the meme using my own tumblr account (hence the lack of attribution–it’s mine and I don’t feel like giving ya’ll my tumblr handle). I reference the second meme which conveys a rather apathetic sentiment to fill in the first blank of the template and, for the second blank, I reference a song that is all about making your own luck and finding your own sense of hope in an otherwise cold world. It’s the conclusion of my story and is meant to convey that while things may be bleak, if we can gather our forces and commit to change, there can still be hope~ ain’t it sweet

I hope the explanation here doesn’t take away from the story. More, I hope you enjoyed my story and I hope it challenged you in a good way.

Please, let me know what you think of my story and be sure to check out my main post on memes! It’s where all the really hot takes are 😉

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~Till next time~

dork1

There Appears to Be an Obstruction on the Way to the Bank

As promised, this post is going to cover the subject of ads and the ad-block application. I’m certain that every person who roams around the internet is fully aware of what online ads are; pop-up ads, display ads, video ads… etc. Users get bombarded by these ads all the time. They cause immense slowdown, unnecessary distractions, or even secretly contain malware that could harm your computer. Some people, though, may not be too familiar with the ad-block application. What is it? Well, it’s an application that blocks ads… Is that answer sophisticated enough? Unfortunately, it only blocks ads on the internet, not in real world —which I wish were not the case. You basically download it as an add-on for your internet browser and… voilà! No more ads. Well, the large majority of them at least; certain ads still manage to get through. This lets you surf the internet with ease and higher speed, and you do not need to worry about any unwanted software. Of course, in terms of ads containing those malicious software, I’m not speaking of shady websites riddled with them. That… would be your fault in that situation. You can’t simply walk into a bear cave and then complain about being unjustly attacked by its dweller. Yet, dark caves are not the only locations where you’d run into a bear. They could be seen around public places as well. Do not panic, but one could be roaming around in your backyard right now, maybe checking out your garbage container (if you’ve got one). Regardless, online ads do steal your (precious?) time and that ad-block program really improves the experience of surfing online. And, yes… I totally talked about online ads and bears digging trash within the same paragraph —I love analogies!

Using ad-block also happens to be a topic of controversy among online publishers. I have come across this interesting piece online: “https://marketingland.com/ad-mageddon-perspectives-ad-blocking-impacts-comes-next-227090”. It covers this specific subject of ads thoroughly well. Its author talks about the damage this particular application potentially causes, and even mentions the counter-measurement that certain websites attempt to utilize, which is asking the visitors to turnoff their ad-block application if they wish to read/watch anything on there (the premise of the meme-narrative from previous post). Simply put, the damage is the drop in revenue. So, they try to balance it out by… force? Not so surprisingly, the author of that article describes this attempt by the publisher as “an indicator of desperation”. I’d have to agree. Forcing people to be exposed to advertisement in order to get money from them is indeed desperate (to put it mildly). Also, keeping your own content hostage is… not very bright. Most of the time, the content isn’t even exclusive, especially in terms of news. If it is exclusive, then as a content creator (written article or an online video) you’d want and need exposure to be recognized. I get it, though. Some people need revenue in order to create that content because they are not part of a corporation. All the expenses are coming out of their own pocket. Although I may be sympathetic, I can’t help but wonder if forceful exposure is the only way to “stay alive”. The author suggests in the article that “a ‘frictionless payment system’ for publishers might work out well for those who understand they need to support content that they consume”. Now, what kind of payment system would be “frictionless”? At the moment, the only thing I could think of is Patreon, an online platform where consumers can directly pay for the very content that they consume. A temporary solution perhaps, for the time being, but it’s still better in comparison to the alternative.

I do not believe the giant corporations like Facebook would be fazed by the ad-block application, in the least, despite a drop in revenue. The indie publishers, however, certainly would feel the pain. As I’ve already said, it’s difficult to dismiss their “plight” out of hand. A slightly exaggerated struggle, in my opinion, but it’s a struggle nonetheless. The funny thing is, though, that a lot of people seem to be concerned only about one aspect of the situation. It’s always about what these independent publishers need to do or “must do”. Instead, let’s look at the bigger picture. Why do the advertisement companies hold the fate of these publishers in their hands? Think about it— Is free media solely dependent on a commercial for Pepsi or Burger King? (TM, btw) Whatever happened to that “free” part? Something is seriously wrong here. I really hope that Patreon, or at least the concept of that platform, eventually becomes a norm; a key that unlocks the door to a better environment where both the consumer and the publisher gets to enjoy a “lived happily ever after”.

I’ll end the post right here, even though I have so much more to say about the topic. Sadly, it turned out to be slightly more negative than I’d considered —also a lot longer… I mean, a lot. In my last post, I talked about “the light that was seeping in”. So, you can merely pretend that this was a piece of cloth falling down in front of the window and momentarily blocking that beam of light. Though, I can’t really promise it’ll be the last one.

The usefulness of the website provided above: 8/10

There is a “Meme” in the Air

It looks like we’ve experienced a bit of a tonal shift in our last class. Up until this point, majority of class discussions centered around the concept of “darkness” on the internet. Although the purpose of our discussions is often described as a discovery of “lightness”, I never really felt like we managed to take a big leap toward that goal. We’ve only had some small steps, wandering around the concept. I suppose that we needed to ignite a couple of fireworks before the end of the semester approached… and here we are.

So, what was the new topic of discussion that turned the tide? Memes!… [Insert awkward silence] Yes, that’s it. I’d never considered that I would participate in a class about memes —a graduate class, mind you— with a serious discussions to follow. Firstly, let’s establish the type of meme we’d discussed in the class. It’s a humorous image with piece of text that is copied and spread by people on the internet, specifically social media users. I tend to come across many of these memes on online forums or subreddits, so I’m familiar with almost all of the popular ones. I would not consider myself a fan of memes but I do not necessarily hate them either. I’m more of a passive observer. Still, a little bit of amusement every once in a while goes a long way. Hence, I do appreciate a good meme if I stumble upon one.

It was certainly interesting to hear an in-depth analysis of memes in the class; their position on social media and how they represent unity of ideals in a specific form. Personally, I’d like to think that memes are the buoys on a digital sea (or the internet as we know it). Although there are some reflections from the real life on that “sea”, the online world tends to have its own and somewhat exclusive pop-culture. What else would be considered better representative of that particular culture than the memes? During our class discussion, I’d mentioned that the memes reminded me of the concept of wordplay in real life. If you’re not already familiar with the concept, it’s simply a “game” played by people with a common “set of linguistic norms and expectations regarding the use of language” (i.e. puns). Thus, you have to be aware of the rules in order to play it. In comparison, the function of memes could be seen under the same light; simply add the online culture awareness into the mix of those linguistic norms and expectations, and you become a player (or “a passive observer” like me). Thus, you can understand the ironic humor and the message that comes with memes, and perhaps see them from a less dismissive perspective —as some people do with puns.

We were tasked with a meme-narrative (official term?) for our blog posts. Since we had to pick one particular meme from our class collection, I’ve decided to go with the meme about ad-block (shout out to Masooch for making it!), which is the second one on top. I figured that I could also write something about the notion of ad-placement on websites as a follow-up. What I managed to come up with is the following:

meme_story_1

The story is simply about blocking those obnoxious ads that swarm the viewer. I’ll be talking about that specific subject more extensively in the following Field Guide post. For now, I’d like to simply mention that forcing viewers to deal with ads is not a decent exercise regardless of purpose (revenue), which I believe is reflected in that meme-narrative above.

Anyways… this was a really fun topic to go over. The light that is seeping in brings the positivity with it, indeed.