onbevangen.nl
07-03-2013 mag 7 /

article/

Makes a Meme Instead

Abstract: 

Capturing the world in the form of Internet memes fits perfectly into the everyday aesthetics of our age.

“Stupid viral shit”, as an Urban Dictionary user so poignantly described the essence of Internet memes, has been receiving heightened attention from academia in recent years. The growing interest is well-founded, as the Internet meme has become one of the most versatile digital artefacts of our age. This prompts and signals a change in our perception of online meme culture: instead of seeing it as only “mindless” entertainment, our thinking seems to be shifting towards regarding memes as essential parts of modern folk culture. Value judgements aside, Internet memes describe and illustrate the ongoing changes in our mediaspace, as well as our involvement and participation in that mediaspace.

Exploring the origins, history and evolution of a digital artefact can offer further understanding of its present implications. This paper was born out of this idea: for years, I have been fascinated by the enthralling world of Internet (sub)cultures and where it all came from. It indeed comes from a myriad of places. From emoticons and Bert is Evil, through All Your Base Are Belong to Us, to Advice Animals and political Internet memes, every Internet meme tells a story of the time and place it was born. Investigating them can reveal the cultural, social and technological factors that shape not only online meme culture, but digital culture in general.

But Internet memes not only have many sources, they serve many purposes as well. It is this versatility that I was also after, in meaning and function alike, tracing how the Internet meme became a major mode of online communication and expression. The nature of Internet memes is a result of our current chaotic mediaspace; it is an accessible genre to make sense of the chaos and share that activity with everyone else. The Internet meme is itself a meme, entering and spreading through our (digital) culture, taking all our base.