The simple addition of text to images as a meme message is typically aimed at generating a reaction, an expression of an emotion, laughter. One that makes you want to spread it everywhere.

Do we even have to explain or ask what these are?

What do we know of how/why memes work? With digital alchemy, can we do more with memes than just re-sharing the ones we see and instead create them ourselves?

Are memes the street art of the internet?

The Opener

Have you seen all the memes? What are ones you have seen recently that are memorable. What is it about them that makes them memorable? Where did it come from? Do you know? What variations have you seen?

Discuss. Tweet.

On Blogging

Discussion of Black Mirror Episode “Nosedive”

from imgur collection “Episodes of Black Mirror as Classic Comic Covers”

For this week we explore the issues of social ratings in a near future gone bad from Black Mirror’s Season 3 Episode 1, “Nosedive”

Not everyone has access to watch this episode because of its exclusivity in NetFlix (every full version that pops up on YouTube is quickly taken down, does this say something about digital culture?).

But as a connected group, we will pool what we can to summarize the plot; you can learn much about the plot from the reviews and analyses:

Understanding Memes

In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins conceived of the meme as something like the cultural equivalent of a gene:

We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain, via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.

An effective meme spreads quickly, like a virus. What causes one to spread wildly while many more do not?

When a meme is encountered it usually has an immediate emotional effect on the viewer — much like a joke. Memes are designed to be readily shared, so the are especially powerful in social media.

Memes Are Not So New

The form of memes used on the internet predates it by a long shot. An early LOLCat image was made in 1905; the first online one appeared in 2007:

From Explainer: What Are Memes (The Conversation)

People Inside the Memes

Quite often the images used are not intended for memes, their spread seems accidental.

“Many of the people I spoke with at ROFLCon, or heard speak, echoed similar sentiments: while they didn’t feel a direct sense of ownership over their creation, recognition is always nice.” — At ROFLCon, watching memes go mainstream (The Verge)

The photographer who took the photo use in one of the most popular memes of 2017, The Distracted Boyfriend, did not even know what a meme was or how hs photos were used (read the Wired interview with photogapher Antonio Guillem). As they tend to do, the meme even memes itself:

Can Memes Be More Than Silly?

Look at these examples

Read, Learn More About Memes (maybe annotate?)

Making Memes

The following Makes are ones everyone should complete; all are housed in the NetNarr Make Bank. Each one includes instructions and a place to enter your response and include a link to the memes that you produce.

Memes That Meme Themselves

One of the subtle characteristics of meme images is that way they can refer to themselves, calling out that they are themselves memes, or referring to their own back story. In this Make you will use one of the standard, popular meme images, research it’s origin, and use it to create a new meme that references itself. Do this Make

Most Fascinating Subject in the World Meme

You must have some interest or hobby that is extremely fascinating to you. How can you communicate that to others? Why not the simple combination of an image that represents it with a short bit of text on top, meme it? In this Make you will use a simple meme generator, but use your own or a found image. Do this Make

Nosedive Meme

For this Make you will create a meme image that makes a statement about the Black Mirror episode we discussed, but doing one in the style of popular memes or one that uses the message of them. Use Know Your Meme to do some research behind popular memes. Do this Make

Yo, Dawg. Here is Your Checklist

Week 4 Checklist

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Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet.


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