Lab #13


(sorry these are really bad)

I enjoy reading memes, but have never made one, so at first I was a little stumped about where to start. As I was creating the memes, I thought about the multimodality not just of the medium (overlap of text/image/cultural references) but also the multimodality of meme communities. Creating these specific memes involves overlapping contexts—both the context of the image/reference and the context of this class give the meme its meaning. Somebody who didn’t understand the media reference (in the case of these memes, mostly allusions to pop culture/TV) wouldn’t understand the meme. Or maybe they would understand it, but the textual nuances wouldn’t make as much sense, if any. Likewise, people who are not in this class may not understand the references to McLuhan, coding, and the field trip. It’s not that the meme wouldn’t make sense to them per se, but they probably wouldn’t find it relatable or funny. Thus, the multimodality of memes is more than the concrete media combination of text, imagery, video, etc.—there is a deeper cultural meaning embedded in memes because you must understand a reference and be able to relate to the recreation of that moment in a different context.

This lab made me explore the iconography of memes. How do we decide to take an image or moment and assign a meaning to it? Sometimes, it seems pretty arbitrary because the original moment doesn’t contain the connotation that we end up giving it. For example, the condescending Wonka meme is from a moment in the movie where Wonka is not being condescending whatsoever.

I think it’s interesting to examine the “misuse” of memes because its something that is defined culturally. When someone “misuses” a meme, they usually take a grammatical structure, image, and/or contextual reference associated with a certain meme and apply it to a different meme where the overlapping contexts do not make sense or are considered irrelevant. This “misuse” is not “wrong” in terms of creating a multimodal form of expression, but is considered wrong by the sub-communities that associate with the “modes” of the meme. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to use a sentence like I used in my field trip meme and put it on the “victory baby” image. From looking at many memes, I’ve noticed that sometimes people consider any type of deviation a “misuse,” unless that deviation creates a whole new sub-category of humor that people choose to accept. In this way, memes are both limiting and generative depending on shifting cultural definitions.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *