Well, well, well…
If I’m not back at it again discussing memes.
Have I ever left the conversation???
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 one, this 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~
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~
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
— kelli~ (@helterskelliter) March 12, 2019
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.
@netnarr some digital artists I admire and who inspire me are @alexsaum ( check her beautiful #selfiepoetry project), @emiliovavarella (his Digital Skins series is AMAZING), and @mariaFmencia (check herTransient Self Portrait project)~ #dda289 #netnarr #ART #heckyeah
— kelli~ (@helterskelliter) March 15, 2019
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~