Memes Encouragement of Discourse Communitites

Kenny and Cohen derive the idea of a meme by using Limor Shifman’s definition in explaining to their readers that a meme, is “(a) a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance, which (b) were created with awareness of each other, and (c) were circulated, imitated, and/or transformed via the internet by many users” (98).

The circulation of memes have created a discourse community in which people participate in creating variations of scenarios through imagery. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate within different discourse communities on the web. For instance, the very familiar Leonardo Dicaprio memes:




As you can see, a snippet of imagery from the film The Great Gatsby was acquired and circulated around the web to create various memes whether to share humorous context or a more serious one. One shot can be looked at and manipulated a thousand ways and that in itself, creates a discourse community in that users of the web like to create memes. This photo may be updated and reupdated whenever someone has a text that can draw attention to the photo and create an idea.

“According to Limor Shifman, there are two types of remix meme: the juxtaposition image meme and the frozen-motion remix meme. The juxtaposition meme takes a facial expression or an act out context and inserts it into an image that deserves the punch line” (Cohen & Kenny 104). The memes of Leonardo Dicaprio shown above is the very definition of a juxtaposition meme. “Shifman explains that juxtapositions call for mimetic response because the photos are taken out of context, and their reappropriation to other context feels almost natural” (Cohen & Kenny 104). Users of the web who experiment with memes may not know the context of Leonardo’s facial expression if they did not watch the movie, however, the way Shifman puts it, the facial expression is open to interpretation to create memes and generate ideas of thinking within discourse communities or just in the realm of the web as a whole.

To use Leonardo Dicaprio again, his photo was taken in mid-motion in the scene of his film Inception as he is seen walking awkwardly but happily and people use out-of-context information to crate a meme. The original photo is shown below.

 Look at the variations people came up with as a result making it a frozen-motion meme.

*All photos located at The 23 Funniest Strutting Leo Pics.

The variations of this photo has generated so much buzz within the discourse community of the web that it is known as “Strutting Leo.” Because of the popularity of the photo, people are successful in producing a desired or intended result via the internet and by using this particular photo. Same goes for thousands of other photos that continue to circulate the web. Ultimately, discourse communities are encouraged to participate in creating memes by using shared photos or videos of interest on the web.

The Topoi: A Connection Among Discourse Communities

The readings for this post were heavy! Not because of the amount but solely on the complexity of the language and connections that need to be made. One word that stands out is “topoi”. Topoi, singularly topos, is a theme or connection piece. When tying this into the understanding of memes it all goes back to discourse communities. Memes are single ideas that together, connect entire discourse communities. Regardless of the chosen affinity, a well constructed meme “will be one that triggers the appropriate set of conceptual and emotional associations for a given audience within a given cultural context” (Wetherbee 2).

The meme comes from the Ancient Greek word mimeme which means “imitated thing” (Cohen & Kenny 86). The meme as described in Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, starts as a single idea or piece that crosses cultural and ideological barriers to connect single thought strands. These single ideas evolve into a world of strategic discourse.

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To take an independent case not examined in the texts, The Willy Wonka meme. This since still image is a topoi that paved the way for a funny image that covers the everyday thoughts and belief behind each meme that covers the internet. These memes encourage each person to contribute their individual ideas in a cultural context.

Another overlooked effect of the meme is the breakdown of language. In many of the memes circulating the internet, it is common to see “iz” in the place of “is” and other letter replacements.

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In the above meme, the first image shows the use of language in a way that fits the context of the idea while deconstructing the English language as many have come to know it. Shortened languages known as “txtspk” and “lolspeak” (Cohen&Kenny 92-93), contribute to language breakdown. While the shortened language becomes more convenient on the quick exchange of ideas, when switching back to basic communications there is some confusion.

I know I’m going off into different ideas but the do all tie back together. Going back to the topoi, this connector contributes to the interaction across social media platforms. The meme connects users for Facebook to Instagram and Instagram to Twitter. Sites such as Tumblr, Reddit, and individual blogs in WordPress are a part of a larger idea. To take the case of the “binder of women” comment made by presidential candidate Mitt Rodney. The meme launched the election into social media spotlight across platforms with a common agenda. The need to speak out against gender inequalities broke down political barriers and at the same time, used visual and textual ques based off of a single moment.

The moment when used correctly, can lead to the longevity of the meme. As it reaches across topics there are three questions that I have.

  1. How does the meme further restrict the political world?
  2. With the evolution of the meme, will language become a larger issue with further generations?
  3. Is multimodality effectively used in the design and evolution of the meme?

The Effect of Memes on Popular Culture

Memes are one of the greatest accidental inventions of all time. By some miraculous chance, Internet users are able to search and find over a million different memes of various backgrounds. Being that I am a millennial, I am very familiar with memes and how much of a major impact it has on popular culture. In Chapter 4 Cohen and Kenny eloquently says “some memes enter our culture in the form of slang or knowledge, such as the terms “bae”, selfie, or fail, and some enter our mind as something culturally relevant and unforgettable” page 109.  I found this to be extremely important because it is signifies how slang terms whether from online or while spoken, it somehow enters the ecosystem and we have to learn to incorporate it in each of our lives. No matter how old you are or wherever you are in the world, memes will touch your life.

Memes provide an opportunity to connect with people of all sort. To say that memes has not had any effect on popular culture is like saying global warming has had no effect on the world. Memes have become similar to emojis— you use it like anything else. Often times when I am texting my friend, we communicate by sending memes to one another to try and convey our emotions or just have a lost. Sometimes when I am texting the first thing that comes to mind is “OMG let me find a meme for that.” It is the easiest way for me to communicate. In happy moments, in sad moments, in moments of confusion, memes are the way for millennials to express themselves. Memes have absolutely affected every part of popular culture as well as our emotions. Sometimes when individuals see a meme they experience many different emotions such as joy, sadness, happiness, fear etc.

Another added bonus of memes is that it encourages participation and shareability. Memes have the ability to be shared across a wide range of platforms and on smartphones as well which is major. Memes encourage collaborative community while also cultivating a new form of discourse community— they are unlike traditional culture. It allows you to be part of a community and be able to contribute to the community. Many meme composers within the popular culture realm participate with memes on platforms such as weblogs, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat just to name a few. These platforms allow a user to interact with their friends and loved ones using memes and incorporating other multimodal features. The composer has the ability to create, remix, repackage, redistribute the content. Being a part of the content generating community allows for individualism and the composer has given a voice. The community has many affordances and it can add to the digital ecosystem.  With all good things comes the bad. Although you can create and redistribute the content you create, once it goes viral that’s it– you’ve have lost “ownership” of it, it becomes a product of the Internet. 

There is no doubt that memes have had a significant impact on our culture, our ways of knowing, the emotional self, how we see the world and how we interact with it. It is extremely important for content composers, content consumers to keep in mid the effects of memes and new digital literacies and what effects it will have on the population.


Advice Dog

The idea that a single image is capable of generating so much discourse over such a large scale is amazing. Internet memes have become an indespensible part of the web and woven in our culture. For example, Advice Dog, as seen below, originated from a Mario fan-site, The Mushroom Kingdom and was created in 2006. It started with a picture of a dog’s head with a multicolored color wheel background behind it. From there, Advice Dog developed into many variations of memes.


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Advice Dog                           Advice Lady

As mentioned in the Lauri Greis article, “Studies of transformation are especially useful in tracking how images undergo change in ways unanticipated by the “original” image’s designer and spark unexpected consequences.” (344), Advice Dog shows how an image can be circulated and transform with space and time.  Whether the text changes with the same image or the image changes with the same text, it contributes to a rhetorical collaboration.

According to Cohen and Kenny “to participate in the meme requires an understanding of the linguistic nature of the meme itself.” (89). This can be seen with Advice Dog in which it is typical to combine two completely unrelated pieces of advice together.  The genuine good advice, given at the top, is usually followed by a bad or humorous advice given at the bottom.  While the linguistic nature of the meme is culturally understood by the participants who create and post, each meme has its own identity and its own message.

Does Circulation and Multimodality Define Success of Media?

For the success of any media whether digital or not there needs to be an adequate amount of circulation in order to actively categorize the media as successful. Upon creation of the media the author understand that there must be an attention generating or grabbing component. This component is what increased the chances for circulation. Take for example, the Pepe The Frog Meme, it was created and within a matter of days had spread as far as being adapted into various other scenarios than the first intentional creation. Which also leads me to the point which stipulated that circulation promotes multimodality.

Multimodality is not only the composition of different forms of media, but as I see it  the expansion and recreation of a media into various forms (also can be interpreted as remixes). Both, circulation and multimodality promote and invite an audience in both a social and economic aspect. You have to think of it this way, a print billboard in a dark alley with little to no foot traffic with gain no attention and will not circulate the advertisement however, at the same a billboard in a bright and rather well lit area with enough foot traffic could also face the same problem if the intended media does not generation attention and invites participation also known as the circulation of said media. As mentioned in, Laurie E. Greis’s, Iconographic Tracking: A Digital Research Method for Visual Rhetoric and Circulation Studies, states that, “Studying an image’s eventfulness is also necessary for addressing the complexities of visual production, distribution, and circulation brought on by a viral economy.” (pg 335) In other words, the media itself allows entails the strategies for both commercial use and social experimentation.

In both, Hanfer and Jones, and Cohen and Kenny it became apparent to me that the way by which we sell our creations online is by corresponding to the demands and the usage of our intended online users– marketing and advertising 101, but what is not so obvious is in as mentioned  in Hanfer and Jones the concept of, “Interaction and Involvement” (pg 61). With Web 2.0 came the revolution of users interaction and involvement in online subject matter, “The producer of an image can draw on a range of techniques in order to engage and involve their audience, express power relations, and express modality (how truthful something is…” (pg 61). Here we see how there is a manipulation of sorts in order to promote and circulate a media. As producers of media we play on peoples emotions, strengths, weaknesses, fears, and joys in order to promote and circulate our work. All in the same,  Cohen and Kenny’s chapter, which also is systemic in the sense that it allows their audience to carefully understand the do’s and don’ts of producing a successful meme exemplifies the idea that as creators we must be able to chose wisely how we promote our work in such a way that it circulates and generates noise– in a good way.

We as producers, authors, and writers must understand that the way by which we share our work and enter it into an online society subjects it to the  scrutiny of fame or failure. The success of a media in my interpretation is analyzes and addresses the needs and wants of an audience but does so in a way that it generates equal social  and economic circulation which eventually allows the creation of new and extensions of that said media. Circulation is a vital part to any media as it is to our body. As it is in our body the exchange allows to grow and reap benefits and so too does this component online.

Response 7- Memes

When we think about how we communicate on a screen several things come to mind, text messages, emails, Facebook messages or maybe twitter. What we don’t think about is how these modes of communication change how we send each other information. As it says on page 90 of Chapter Four (Cohen and Kenny) “one of the biggest downsides of digital culture is transmission loss of meaning and depth in text in short messages”. This along with the combination of emoji’s and short speak make us pre programmed to keep it short and get to the point. It also opens the door to miscommunication because how I type something may not be the way its read by someone else, which can either be a funny misunderstanding or something more serious like offending someone.

This idea relates to page 338 of the Gries article where she talks about the consequences of an image as it circulates. When we post something to our social media accounts they’re  no longer ours, they can be reposted and reworked thousands of times and the message we set out to send has now been revised half a dozen times. Think about the most popular memes out there right now and how many captions they can host or how many variations of that same meme you’ve come across in your scrolling. For example this picture has been apart of so many memes,

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Those are just two examples of how that one picture has been used. The two captions are totally unrelated but the picture still applies. When memes like this get changed and circulate they’re breathed new life. In memes like this its mostly for humor. However sometimes like Gries points out on page 342 sometimes images meant to be powerful and leave a lasting impression, like the obama hope poster, get remixed into context far outside their intent. Like the Obamicons which mock or make spoofs of the original content there is no limit to what people can do with something they find online, apps like twitter or instagram clearly state in their privacy policy that once you post it they can do what they want with it.

With the political scene heating up the memes surrounding the candidates are circulating more and more, some hilarious, some a little crude but all making jokes on the candidates campaign. Donald Trump in particular is a popular meme character, with thousands of variations of his face appearing all over social media.