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What can we learn from meme culture?

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If you go on-line, the chances are that you have encountered memes. What exactly is a meme? Some people take memes to be simply images with added text. The artist Barbara Kruger is often cited as a pre-internet forerunner of this practice. But another kind of meme presents a fascinating window into the ways communities are created and held together. These communal memes, as I call them, are like instructions for a group activity.In May 2016, the novelist Celeste Ng was bantering with friends on Twitter and mentioned an anxiety dream in which her book, Everything I Never Told You, was published as Some Things I Never Told You. She started playing with altered versions of titles of books by her author friends. Finally, riffing on Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned, she tweeted The Reasonably Pretty and the Slightly Sinful along with the newly-minted hashtag #ScaleBackABook. Thousands of people took up the challenge displaying their skill and imagination in changing book titles (Paradise Misplaced Somewhere in my Purse (@helenqterrez), All’s Well that Ends (@masten_j), A Tweet of Two Villages (@DawnReidPM)) and a communal meme was born.Image credit: Tweet screenshot of the #ScaleBackABook thread. Public domain via Twitter.This is a great example for thinking about communal memes. First, we see community functioning in two ways: a community of friends among whom the idea of the meme comes into focus and the community of Twitter-users in general that allows the meme to flourish. What is essential is that the members of the community can see and respond to each other’s efforts. Memes are often associated with the internet because the internet creates large interactive communities. But the same kind of thing as we see in #ScaleBackABook happens in families and groups of friends too, without anyone going online.Secondly, we can see the way in which instances of the meme, the individual altered book titles, are a kind of performance. One admires (or disparages) the. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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