In September of 2007, a young blogger uploaded a video defending Britney Spears. Spears had just been slaughtered for her appearance at the MTV Music Awards. The US blogger screamed and asked that critics leave Spears alone.
The video has been watched over 2 million times within the first 24 hours. Several remixes manifested as well as ... yes, memes.
A new form of communication was born
Memes are a central part of Web 2.0, But a few questions are left to be answered:
How do memes change our communication
On the first look, they just seem to be trivial and simplistic artifacts. But they reflect Zeitgeist and cultural discussions. What is annoying us today? Which statement is the quote of the day? Memes help as part of the internet culture to create shared values.
That happens when a meme gets shared on our own timeline. Subtle and in the form of a small picture current politic news and debates crawl into our feeds. Even the people who cannot be bothered to follow the news, read a newspaper or spend an hour per day learning what´s new in the world can participate in political discussions. Via memes.
As soon as a meme appears in many timelines, users can be sure: "I am allowed to share this." For that, they do not even have to use words. A simple click does it. Memes help people to form and share their opinion.
Why do people love memes?
For one users who upload a photoshopped picture or homemade video show that they own digital competence and are unique and creative. Who shares or re-shares a meme also shows to which community he feels he belongs. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.
We live in times where nearly every public event is followed by a swarm of memes. Nearly unnoticed, they shape some of the most important events of our time. They have become indispensable for the digital culture. Pages like knowyourmeme
have their own Trump or Putin sections.
If we share memes like the ones above on Facebook, we spread cultural unity and share how we feel. If we want to express what made us very happy or angry, we can use memes to do so without becoming open to attack like when we write our own statement.
Sharing, imitating, remixing have become important pillars of the culture of participation. Part of what is expected from a digital competent internet citizen.
Who else benefits from memes?
Some videos are structured in a way that they can easily be imitated from the start. That enhances the chance of a YouTube, Facebook or Twitter success.
Activists take advantage of this principle as well as political parties.
If many users share a message, for instance, "We are the 99 %" (Occupy Wall Street), mass media will likely report it and pay attention to the movement.
How are memes created?
Some one uploads a video on YouTube, for instance, one where a baby bites the brother´s finger. Someone takes a screenshot, cuts out the brother and replaces it with the picture of a movie star, politician etc.
There are two mechanisms of repackaging: Imitation and remix. Imitation means that someone reconstructs and re-records the scene. Remix is when someone edits a picture with Photoshop or adds a new soundtrack and such.
I am sure you have seen the same meme with totally different text.
Who wants to learn more about the fascination meme and its influence on our communication can get Limor Shifman´s book "Memes in digital culture" HERE