[Air-L] Meme Tracking

Taylor-Smith, Ella E.Taylor-Smith at napier.ac.uk
Mon Jun 12 01:47:46 PDT 2017

Hi all

If we are interested in studying what people are doing on the Internet (what they think they're doing etc.), then we can't ignore that people share images -especially images with words in -that they call memes.
The books coming out of the Why We Post project take this line and are rewarded with all sorts of insights about the contemporary use of memes in various cultures. E.g. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/why-we-post/discoveries/14-memes-have-become-the-moral-police-of-online-life

Miller and Sinanan's book about Facebook use is a good place to start Miller, D. & Sinanan, J. (2017). Visualising Facebook. London: UCL Press. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-press/browse-books/visualising-facebook

If we're interested in the relationship between Dawkins' ideas and the concept of an internet meme, I have a couple of pointers that might help.
It seems to be that media scholars use the term meme to study how content spreads across the Internet, by focusing on the content of the content -virality, while virality is a metaphor -people do the spreading, not the content.

For Dawkins (in the meme) "the idea of purpose is only a metaphor" (The Selfish Gene).

When Godwin introduced the Internet meme idea, he seemed to be taking this concept of virality in order to introduce a counter-meme (Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies). In this case, the meme's purpose is Godwin's purpose.

Many definitions of meme emphasise humour
e.g. “a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission.”
Davison, P. (2012). The Language of Internet Memes. In M. Mandiberg (ed.), The Social Media Reader (pp. 120–34), New York: New York University Press

If we lose our sense of humour while studying or discussing memes, we will not be able to understand them at all.
Probably best not to underestimate the role of humour in any communications, but especially online.

Hope this helps.


Dr Ella Taylor-Smith

School of Computing
Edinburgh Napier University
10 Colinton Road
Edinburgh, EH10 5DT

Email: e.taylor-smith at napier.ac.uk


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