New approaches to sociality, affect, and meaning In recent years, memes have become deeply tied-up in expressions of individual and collective identity, typically in forms only scrutable to those producing and consuming them, and often in an ironic and absurdist spirit. From Wojaks to Karens, there exist thousands of memetic characters that personify shared affect (from the nihilistic to the wholesome, and from expressing generational belonging to forming new political identities). But memes affect not only through the presence of familiar and infinitely remixable subjects, but also through aesthetics (vibes). “Internet ugly” (Douglas 2014) reigns supreme when composing dissociated, grainy, washed out, oversaturated images. Beyond static images, however, audiomemes (Abidin 2021) on TikTok engage shared visual, aural, and gestural patterns to narrate mundane as well as extraordinary experiences. Memes are mushrooming into sounds and videos, tracing patterns across platforms and lifeworlds, becoming cultural and political touchstones for many.
Yet despite the increasing importance of memes as objects of cultural analysis, the original evolutionary definition of memes as “units of cultural transmission” that “leap from brain to brain” (Dawkins 1976) is inadequate in accounting for the human meaning making processes so fundamental to this form of participatory visual culture. Moreover, there is more to memes than 4chan and Reddit, Pepe the Frog, the Alt-right, and their US-centric frames of reference, as memes find fertile ground in multiple platform ecologies today. This masterclass explores what happens if we combine innovative theoretical approaches to memes in dialogue with global expressions of meme culture.
A series of three masterclasses open to MA students, PhD-candidates, and staff.
- 14 March - Gabriele de Seta (University of Bergen) "Spiritual Pollution: A decade of Chinese digital folklore" (1-3pm in BG1 0.16). Please register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- 19 April - Hannah Barton (Birbeck, University of London) (3-5pm in BG1 0.16). Please register by emailing email@example.com
- 10 May - Asaf Nissenbaum (Open University of Israel) (3-5pm in BG1 0.16). Please register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org