Exercise 4.3 – Internet Memes

We are asked to read Limor Shifman’s essay ‘The Cultural Logic of Photo-Based Meme Genres’ in Journal of Visual Culture, December 2014, Vol.13(3), pp.340–58 and then taking inspiration from an image or idea which has been researched, create a photographic response to an internet meme

Shirmins analysis on the photo based meme has proven to be correct, the visual meme has grown within digital culture from a humourous way of passing fun images into world wide businesses and a reflections on current cultural situations almost as they happen.

Shirmin is right in pointing out that memes as groups of content units, you only have to look at one or two of the initial meme sites, such as ICHC or Failblog to see that the gathering content together and monetising off it has become big business.  Everything from political upheaval to dog behaving badly have become ready marketable content and used to bring custom into sites using the content as a lever to gain attention. The current memes will be reflected in the future based on how viral that meme or content is, while some may have great initial traction, their importance may drop off quickly as the humour of the situation passes and in time becomes less funny. They may of course return to life later on in a much edited format or similar content which in not connected to the first meme, but some memes only remain in circulation due to the content being reinterpreted by twisting the narrative to suit a particular purpose.

Some memes start with good intentions but take a less well intentioned path when they become viral; a good example of this is the ice bucket challenge, while the initial purpose was to both raise funds and awareness of MS and the locked in feeling which severely affected patients suffer from, it ended up with people pouring buckets of iced water over themselves or each other without understanding that the initial body shock of the ice cold water and the fighting for a breath was a demonstration of the affects that the condition has on sufferers.

The link between truthfulness and memes is picked up by Shirmin with “Tourist Guy”, the meme which was built on the back of a private joke, which turned into a hoax as some people believe initially that the image was real. As with the situation room memes, the interconnect between truth and image is broken when the image is further manipulated to create a political storyline pushing a vision of the truth.

The situation room meme reappeared again after President Trump fired missiles into Iran, there were instant comparisons to the two situation rooms, once tense and filled with different individuals and the other were the room was filled with almost clone like political figures. At this point the situation room meme, has changed from one of a reaction photoshop to a stock character meme. The President Obama situation room was a stereotype for how a situation room should look and feel and the stereotypical members of President Trumps situation room set itself up for being mocked by the internet for its lack of individuality.

In both the reaction photoshop and the stock imagery meme, the structure of the meme highlights the visual construction of the image and the use of photomanipulation in the creation of the meme. Very much like the photo fad that Shirmin mentions, social medias reaction to media, news and current events show that there is an underlying set of rules by which memes come to life and stay in circulation. Sites such as reddit and twitter keep photo fads alive and current by making them as “front page” as possible, therefore giving the meme as much visibility across the digital world as possible. There is even a section of reddit where a meme economy exists where people trade in meme templates and in how popular they make become in the short term.

For the exercise, we are asked to create our own meme; I returned to my first interaction with internet memes, that of the Cat Macro, later known as LOLCats. Here I mixed the meme with another idea about me not having enough coffee.

I used a photograph of one of my cats as a template, choosing an image where she was looking particularly grumpy, which I could then add to the meme and joke of having a bad attitude before my morning coffee.

While the idea works and the meme is out on the internet, I cannot see it being shared to an extent where it will become viral, a fate that awaits a majority of memes.

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