Blog Post 3: In the Meme Time

Hi everyone,

Nice work at the Tang today — even though we didn’t get to a full-group discussion of everyone’s pieces, I heard lots of incisive talk as I was walking around.

This coming week, we turn to the aesthetic and social possibilities of meme culture as a way of thinking about appropriation in action online. For Wednesday, we’ll be reading two chapters by Ryan Milner, “Logics: The Fundamentals of Memetic Participation” and “Grammar: Structures for Making Statements and Making Do.” This blog posts asks you to do a little making in response to Milner’s argument.

EN 364 Meme

Once you’ve read Milner’s work, you should create a meme that illustrates some of the logics and grammar he discusses as central to meme culture and memetic production. There are a number of ways to do this online — lots of apps will allow you to make one on the spot, and there are also sites where you can make image-based or gif-based memes, or you’re free to create one yourself however you like. In addition to being funny, your meme should say something — try to use this format and genre to make a larger cultural point of some sort.

In your post, you should include a link to your meme, and analyze it through the framework of a specific piece or pieces of Milner’s writing — show how your meme illustrates the ideas and issues he’s discussing. If your meme is something that doesn’t have a specific link, you can also screenshot it and email it to me directly. You should also print out your meme and bring it to class Wednesday so that we can see and discuss them in small groups as well as on the projector. Have a good weekend, and happy meme-ing!

Reminder: Your writing should go in the comments section for this post — click on the link near the top of this post where it says “Leave a Comment.” It should be at least 300 words, and is due by midnight Tuesday, September 19. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

21 thoughts on “Blog Post 3: In the Meme Time”


    Long-time reader of memes, first-time meme maker here. This is pretty straightforward. It is an image macro from “the pantheon of esoteric stock characters” as Milner calls it (45). The specific character is “Bad Luck Brian” and its general format is that the upper text implies something fun or enjoyable only for the bottom text to bring it all crashing down. When reading Milner’s second chapter with our assignment in mind, no meme came to mind or resonated with me more than this specific one. After all, back in 2015 the internet was theoretically past this joke, so I thought bringing it back ironically might trigger certain responses in our meme-loving class. For instance, there are those in our class who might read the image as purely ironic and take it at face value (the studium, more general response across us meme-savvy people), or some might be reminded of that golden age and feel a certain nostalgia for it. After all, the macro’s punctum depends on the individual. For some, this meme just may not resonate at all.

    My macro is in the simplest multimodal format, as it only has the viewer read the text, look at the image, and connect the two. Yet, as simple as that sounds, it requires advanced cognitive skills to “understand” how this might be a joke. The upper text is more obscure for someone outside our class to understand than for a classmate since wanting to make a larger point about memes is not a very common feeling among the populace; since such a feeling is common among our small collective, it should more easily resonate. The bottom text also requires background on the “dead” meme that cannot be shown in this format to understand. And, furthermore, the classic format of this macro is itself a meme, as Milner pointed out. Even though my text on the macro is original, the format, use of impact font, and background photo are all appropriations of what I have seen before, and will see again. My text and share of this macro is the individual decision that helps this meme spread to, at the very least, our small class if not beyond. What my meme truly means to me, though, is that no meme is truly dead, also as Milner said. In the back of my mind, every meme lies dormant, waiting to be used like an old cliche. For instance, the first line of this commentary is a meme from where I do not know that found its way into something I am writing for a grade because I thought it fit the social context I was in.


  2. Here’s my meme:×600/71785150/mememonamemeclass2k17.jpg

    Some of the text comes directly from Milner’s, “Logics: The Fundamentals of Memetic Participation” p. 14.

    I chose the Increasingly Verbose Meme form – which begins with an image as-is and a simple caption, and then moves downward with increasingly simplified versions of the image and increasingly verbose captions.

    I chose the image of the Mona Lisa as a reference to our class’ past discussion of Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. and the idea of criticizing traditional art. The high-art status of Mona Lisa stands in sharp contrast to the caption “Meme” next to it, a caption which gets more complicated as the image decreases in quality. The structure of the Increasingly Verbose Meme is that both the image and the text are supposed to be closely connected. By combining both the image of Mona Lisa and the text “Meme” am I equating memes with high-art? Or am I criticizing this conception – by raising memes to the status of art, do I diminish the status of the Mona Lisa to a crudely drawn image on Microsoft Word? Are memes being taken too seriously or is high-art taken too seriously?

    Milner discusses multimodality in his chapters about memes, asserting that memes are tapestries woven from many different mediums and laced with intertextuality (often appropriation) to revolve around some shared cultural experience. Intertextuality exists in my meme through the use of the Mona Lisa image, with – as I mentioned before – references our discussion about Duchamp. Class-specific intertextuality also exists in the literal “appropriation” of Milner’s definition of memes. I also appropriated the structure of the Increasingly Verbose Meme, a form that is undoubtedly familiar to many of us. All of the multimodal pieces comes together to form this image, creating a frame of reference so small that I truly doubt anyone will understand it beyond the mini-culture of our classroom, yet it becomes a shared cultural experience nonetheless.



    I was especially intrigued by Milner’s point about memes possessing a more accessible format—for expressing thoughts and absorbing them—than more traditional mediums. He poses that, “With digitization, new types of information become easier to create, circulate, and transform. The participatory barriers are lowered, and new forms of communication can be encoded and decoded by a broader group of individuals.”

    I chose Albert Einstein as the subject of my meme, because he represents a higher level of intellect than most meme aficionados. His admitting that the public no longer cares about his contributions to science and mathematics reveals a harsh truth delivered in a comical manner. This contrast alone makes the meme funnier (though I won’t flatter myself too much, as the meme isn’t THAT funny).

    Today’s web-surfers can join together and laugh at stuffy intellectuals who are supposedly above the digital take on society and politics. These intellectuals may argue that memes are not an appropriate way to discuss culture. Meanwhile, the accessibility of memes yields MORE discussion, thus deeming these people’s belief ironic.

    Milner also calls memes “self-aware.” My classmates and I have made memes about memes, which increases that level of self-awareness, perhaps by 200%. This notion is comparable to making a joke about how much you make jokes. The audience is almost relieved to know that the creator knows the meaning behind their product (in this case, the meme), thus adding a whole new dimension. People often resist memes, calling them cringy or juvenile, yet—if a meme acknowledges this—then the audience member laughs as a sign of relief. They now understand it is okay to laugh at memes, because the weariness of memes is no longer taboo.



    For my meme I created a variation on the classic “Scumbag Steve.” Milner references Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design when he writes, “Instead to understand a ‘visual statement,’ readers need to understand how both its individual elements and its social contexts ‘are combined into meaningful wholes’” (Milner, 49). With the creation of “Scumbag Prince,” I aimed to speak to both these criteria. With the creation of my meme, I took the defining facet of the original “Scumbag Steve” (the fake couture ball-cap), and edited it onto Richard Prince’s head. To this extent, while I didn’t recreate the original meme, the facet of the original that I chose to appropriate serves to key-in the viewer on the context and theme of what is being said about Richard Prince. The fact that Prince has taken so much heat for his plagiaristic artwork, and the fact that many would consider Prince a scumbag in his own right, creates the cultural milieu that Milner previously described. Together, the social perception and sentiment towards Prince, combined with aspects of the original meme, serve to create a wholly new and somewhat ironic appropriation in and of itself.

    To expand on this concept, one need only to turn to Milner when he states, “the multimodal reappropriation inherent to memes ensures that they’re layered texts. The same tools that facilitate multimodality facilitate the remix of found materials” (61). With “Scumbag Prince” there are multiple layers at play. The memetic connotation of the original “Scumbag Steve” meme is reserved for condemnation. With what begins as something that might incite praise, the meme always ends in bottom-text that offers a negative action having taken place. In “Scumbag Prince” I point towards Prince’s work New Portraits (2014), wherein the artist arguably stole Instagram posts and sold them as “high-art.” I signal the cultural positivity of having been followed on social media (in some cases exactly what Prince would’ve had to have done to create the art), which is followed, as in the cadence of the “Scumbag” meme, with the negative aspect of Prince’s appropriation. While I acknowledge a growing sentiment of the art world, I attempt to poke fun at and subvert it, as the meme itself—like a Prince work—is a stolen appropriation.

    With the creation of the meme I’ve aimed to play to what Milner cites as the stadium and the punctum of the resonance of images. Milner writes, “The stadium is connection with an image at a cultural level; it’s a socially coded appreciation. The punctum is connection with an image at a personal level” (30). I choose Prince as the focal image of the meme as his ethos and identity is coded into the culture of the art world. Being that he is such a divisive individual, I felt that he would best invoke the punctum that Milner describes.



    I’ve also chosen a dead meme, or at least a nearly dead meme, to illustrate a point. The idea of this assignment, to create a meme for any higher purpose beyond, at most, a hearty guffaw, is an erroneous premise. These days, a meme has a shelf-life measured in days, if not hours, and to choose the flavor-of-the-week meme for this post seems disingenuous. With the advent of “dank memes,” and their further proliferation on sites like reddit and 4chan increases both their rate of occurrence and the rate at which they become stale. Furthermore, I cannot create a meme from scratch, as that would violate Milner’s supposition that “internet memes depend on collective creation, circulation, and transformation” (Milner 14). Anything I create here will likely not reach beyond the confines of this blog, and thus never reach either the resonance or the collectivism aspects of a meme, in Milner’s definition. I choose the “One does not simply” image macro, therefore, to have a known meme that has a shelf-life longer than that of an open bag of potato chips. Though Milner says that “we’re tired of stock character macros in 2015” (Milner 2015), I disagree with him. I concede that the general trend of memes now leans toward edginess and irony, the tired old macros still stand as a sounding board on which internet memes today resonate. “Dank memes” such as the Gnome Child do not exist as a counterpoint to unironic image macros like the one above, but rather as a natural evolution. The self-awareness and irony found in abundance in memes today has always existed, albeit in smaller amounts. Boromir up there has always existed as a sarcastic response to some imaginary strawman, a format that has existed since before the internet and still exists today, though the form is more fluid than the rigid structure of the meme above.


  6. I have collected memes and I have created memes. For some reason, perhaps because I am living within the Internet meme culture, I have not thought as much about the cultural impact behind memes as I probably should. In Chapter 1, “Logics: The Fundamentals of Memetic Participation”, Milner talks about why and how memes matter. He claims, “collectivism and spread are situated outside of individual memetic texts in a way that multimodality and reappropriation are not” (39). In a sense—the singular meme does things that the collective meme cannot do and vise versa. Memes are multi dimensional in this sense—they play on many themes and, a lot of the times are reappropriations of themselves. Though this is often the case, all memes are part of either a small collective of memes with the same format or a grouping of memetic images all together. Either way, they all spread and multiply just outside of the fact that they are reappropriations. As Milner puts it more eloquently, “they’re significant not just for their undeniable m ass popularity; they’re significant because their underlying logics—multimodality, reappropriation, resonance, collectivism, and spread—are greater than any individual text or any individual participant” (40).
    Furthermore, Milner discusses about how image resonation due to “culturally encoded ways of seeing” and understanding the grammar of a meme has to do with resonance and perception (51). Often, memes mean different things to different people because there are a variety of subcultures and meme subculture on different feeds. For example, an image of a meme without the text might remind me of a meme I saw with that same image and the complete text because I saw it on a meme account that I follow. However, that same image without the text might remind someone else of a meme completed with a different text. The contexts of each meme are different but the image is the same. In this sense, the image still resonates and the meme is still spread but the associations with the meme image are different.
    For my meme, I chose to play off of the popular Android vs. iPhone meme format. This meme format resonates with people because there is, or at least there was at one point, truth behind the image quality between Android’s not so great quality and the iPhone’s superior camera. In Android vs. iPhone memes, the text on the sender’s end turns green because the receiver has an Android. Or the opposite occurs where someone texts someone else from an Android and they respond that they either cannot understand what the Android user is saying or they imply low monetary standing because of the Android text. On multiple levels, this is funny to me—especially the more recent “regular frog vs. Android frog” or “regular orange juice vs. Android orange juice” when the Android version of the object is pixelated and hard to decipher. In my meme, I also chose to use text slang to highlight the casualness of the meme context. Lastly, I used a meme within my meme to exemplify reappropriation and cultural context at its finest. I won’t explain exactly why my meme is funny (or at least funny to me) because that exposes my genius and perhaps makes it less funny (also I risk having a Barthesian moment)!



    I chose the “ordinary people vs. creative people” meme not only because I believe it allows for easy identification of some of the core concepts in Milner’s writing, but because of its “historical significance” as a descendent of a past meme that is now relatively obscure. It spoofs a comic posted on the website, “The Bright Side” entitled, “10 Illustrations Showing How Creative People See the World.” I am fortunate enough to be able to provide the link to the original comic:

    The illustrations were denounced as pretentious and reductionist, among other things (as one might have guessed, the panel depicting two boys wearing headdresses was appropriately deemed racist). A typical iteration of the meme that was born from this comic features an unaltered version of the “ordinary people” image, with the image that replaces the “creative people” slot typically being surreal, uncanny, or both. Featured is my personal favorite ordinary/creative people meme:

    To return to my earlier statement, ordinary/creative people has what could be dubbed an “ancestor meme,” that of “me vs. other girls”. While the two originated separately from each other, the source material was treated similarly in both cases. The original “me vs. other girls” image consists of two drawings of girls, the “other” being listed as trashy and implied to be conforming to social norms, and “me” listed as being uniquely enlightened. I’ve had to describe it from memory because there is no KYM entry for it, which surprises me because it was not especially niche. Anyways, this image was treated similarly to ordinary/creative people in the way it was parodied, with the “other” remaining the same, and “me” being changed to something like “eight legs, slimy, lives in the sea, I am a squid.” The phenomenon of meme ancestry is reminiscent of Milner’s denunciation of the argument that memes are “dead”, as me/other girls pre-dates that argument, while ordinary/creative people post-dates it.

    To start to analyze my chosen meme from a Milner-ian perspective, I would first like to define the ways in which it resonates with me on both on a cultural (studium) and personal (punctum) level (Milner, 30). I can appreciate the real-life sentiment this meme spoofs because it is one of young people trying to forge a unique identity within their peer group, and was prevalent on tumblr for the bulk of my time being a part of that community. To split subcultural hairs, I attended a charter school for the performing arts from 7th-12th grade, and I recall a large volume of “creative people” entering my middle school class, rejoicing in their escape from a community of ordinary people. As for punctum resonance, I must admit that I was among I shared the attitude of my classmates, though I would like to think I have long since grown out of it. Still, to invoke memetic language, I feel personally attacked when I see these images.

    Not to declare myself a superior meme-maker, but I believe my iteration of the ordinary/creative people meme effectively demonstrates the “blend of imitation and transformation” (73) necessary to contribute to the perpetuation of a meme. In case it is not immediately apparent, I removed Duchamp’s signature from the photograph of Fountain in the top image. Admittedly, I did not transform the reading of the text to a great extent. By using it in a meme which first and foremost denounces the egotism of those who imply that they possess a superior perception of their surroundings, I am not making commentary about Duchamp that does not already exist. However, I believe that I have (inadvertently) transformed the reading of the meme itself by including the same image, with only one miniscule alteration, in both panels. The implication becomes that we, as ordinary people, cannot see the difference between the two images because we are not creative. Therefore, using the structure of this meme, I imply that Duchamp is one of a rare breed, as he sees something drastically different in this urinal that is lost to the uncultured majority, in which we are included.



    The meme I created pulls from a classic image that has been “memed” time and time again. It highlights Milner’s concepts of studium and punctum. Studium being the “connection with an image at a cultural level” and punctum referring to the “connection with an image at a personal level” (Milner 30). The meme connects to college (or even high school) students through the culture of procrastination. Everyone experiences a loss of motivation at some point during the school career, and the phenomenon of procrastination is all too familiar. Unfortunately, the trend of leaving an assignment until the last minute is something that practically everyone in an education setting can relate to. This goes even deeper than a mutually understood cultural reference to college life, because it hits a personal level too. This is where it also brings punctum into play. Everyone can relate this idea to their own personal experience at college. More specifically, I bet everyone has at least one particular memory that sticks out as being the moment of panic to get an assignment in by the deadline. For me, it was freshman year when I legitimately submitted an assignment by 11:59 pm for a 12:00 am deadline. This meme resonates with me even more when I recall that time, which makes the meme even funnier as I picture myself with the same facial expression as the boy in the image.

    What I find interesting about memes is that it feels like a different kind of appropriation or recreation from work by someone like Prince. The original meme is not attached to one artist. These pictures become a potential for recreation, and that recreation is what makes them memes. Everyone is able to contribute, but that is the point. Legal rights are often brought into question when artists recreate already existing work, but with memes it is encouraged to spread them around and create new meanings out of a single image.



    I think this meme sums up what we have been discussing in class. In many ways this assignment was entertaining but I think that there are actually a few layers to this meme that make it applicable to the course. The first layer is that the character Ilana is in fact appropriating a saying. My use of this gif adds another layer on top of that as I am appropriating this scene of the show. The text I added is a commentary on the appropriation techniques of many of the artists we have looked at. These artists take something normal/well known/everyday and make a tiny change and then call it their art. In this case, Ilana takes a saying that most people learn in elementary school, and adds the name “Rihanna” to make it her own. We have seen this as a common thread so far – appropriation signals to artists or creators that all they need to do is change a little something and they have art that is entirely theirs (obviously many people, including our class, debate whether or not this is true and/or fair).

    On page 66, Milner mentions how gifs become “something new when applied to new contexts”. As we discussed this is true of most art (i.e. a urinal that becomes art once it is in a gallery, or a grocery tag that is now coveted and displayed at the Tang). I think this is especially important in relation to GIFs, specifically GIFS of television shows and movies. We must first acknowledge that, unlike the urinal or the Stewarts box or the grocery tag, the media used in these memes is already considered art! Then, when it is put in this new context, it is considered a different type of art. On Page 67, Milner discusses how many times GIFs are used as a response. When people use GIFS to respond, it inherently puts it in a different context (thereby changing its meaning). I think this is also noteworthy because now we have these works of appropriation being used as tools of communication – something I find interesting and frankly just cool. Many times people think of art as non-accessible unless you study it. The use of gifs in memes (and thereby appropriative art) is seemingly a powerful way for anyone to be able to not only talk about but use appropriative art.



    I chose this meme after thinking of Jakes post about the shelf life of a meme. From Milner’s piece we can understand that a meme is not simply a virally transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. Instead, as he more eloquently puts, it “can be applied with enough nuance to still hold theoretical value…memetic can acknowledge the autonomous decisions of social agents while also appreciating how those decisions compound into collective significant through creation” (21). Thus, the idea that the meme won’t spread beyond this class, causing a lack or resonance or collectivism, seems to be a fallacy. In fact, the meme does have the potential to go beyond the scope of this class simply because that’s how the internet works. And secondly, because the resonance and collectivism that he speaks of is clearly defined in terms of “studium” and “punctum” (30). It simply comes down to whether the class will resonate to the cultural reference of your meme and whether that produces some type of visceral reaction for them.

    On another note , I do think Milner fails to account for how randomly a meme rises to prominence. Yes, that can be attributed to collectivism, but how does that spread so rapidly to become a global phenomenon that occupies our lives -for how ever long a meme’s popularity lasts- to the point that it becomes a part of mass conscious? Meme’s for the most part generally have no author, and out of the millions of pictures that get circulated daily, how is it that one ends up transforming into a meme. For now, I think the answer lies in shock value of the subject (humor is also a part of shock value), but I haven’t done enough study on this to be sure.



    As I began working on this blog post I was clicking through the memes that other people had made and realized that someone had created a meme very similar to mine. This brought to mind Milner’s section on “How Memes Matter”. Milner references Barthes’s “death of the author” saying that because of how memes are distributed they effectively eliminate the Author entirely as they are a creation of the general social imagination. Memes arguably bring forward just as many authors for the same reason. They may not by “big A authors” as we’ve said in class at times but memes do allow for anyone to be an author thus situating them in an interesting space as both a format that is authorless and the product of many authors.

    With this in mind, I am going to post my meme which is very similar to Jake’s. I chose the “one does not simply” meme because I felt that while it is dying out in a sense it is likely one of the most recreated memes. Thus, it illustrates Milner’s point that memes do effectively kill authors in the big sense of the word. However, they allow many different authors to show their interpretation of the same themes. I decided to explicitly state that one had to think about the memetic purpose of a meme in order to create an effective meme. While my original thought process was much more in line with Jake’s theory about the old standby memetic images being relevant and self-aware the fact that we chose the same meme really demonstrated Milner’s point that memes have a way of eliminating authorship while allowing for many different authors to give their take on the same topic.



    For my meme I used the “uber frosh” image and added my own top and bottom text to it. In “Logics: The Fundamentals of Memetic Participation,” Milner discusses how collective creation is a fundamental component of meme culture and memetic production. He writes, “Even as collectivism depends on individual expression, it foregrounds social experience, whether vast or local” (33). Although the meme I created is based off of my personal thoughts and experiences on this assignment, it centers on the greater, local experience of everyone in the class completing this assignment. We all have a common basis of understanding, a shared “norm” unique to our group as a class, which therefore allows other students to relate to my individual thoughts on this shared experience and create a collective buzz.

    Milner also writes, “…memetic texts help ‘the internet’ —though it is a multiplicity of texts, sites, perspectives and experiences—feel more like a ‘place'” (33). I found this “place” Milner identifies to be very interesting. One wouldn’t necessarily describe the internet as a place to travel to, like Maine or England, but it definitely conjures those similar feelings of belonging and understanding that a familiar place invokes. The homework assignment my meme refers to suddenly takes on a new form of a shared space for all of my peers to understand and process. Even though my meme is a joke, it suddenly becomes a shared joke and forum for my classmates to engage in, the way one engages in a conversation or place they’re situated in.

    Building off the idea of a collective community, Milner discusses Resonance. Milner writes, “In many memetic texts, irony, humor, and play are essential to their resonance” (31). In my meme, I use a bit of humor and irony to help decode what it is that I’m actually trying to say about Milner and our class assignment. Humor requires wit and awareness of the situation at hand. In my meme, I’m simultaneously humoring and poking fun at the assignment in how the one meme we as a class need to create for this assignment makes us feel like the new Kanye West’s of memetic culture. This statement is not necessarily true, but in identifying the purpose of the assignment and using it as a point of humor, it makes a play at a larger cultural phenomenon of how meme creation makes everyone feel like a creator of fine art and a cultural icon.


  13. It seems that every company with a major social media presence is trying to exclusively target Millennials. The way they do this is through unfunny or somewhat old memes. The logic behind this, use viral pictures and associate them with the company’s brand, makes sense. However, this strategy, almost never works as well as social media directors want it to because, as Ryan Milner describes in Grammar: Structures for Making Statements and Making Do, “…fidelity only resonates to a point. Too much fidelity and to an original idea or text-what Shifman (2014) calls a “founder meme”-may actually undermine the longevity and fecundity of a memetic idea,” (Milner 14). Basically, even the best meme ever would not work if it could only work when considered along with the company that produced it.
    However, when brands try to repurpose memes for their own use, such as in Katy Perry’s music video for her song “Swish Swish.” It also has little influence on potential viewers, and can also potentially do damage to the brand. In the case of Katy Perry’s music video, it lead to a video with over 750,000 dislikes on almost 200 million views. While not the most dislikes for a video on YouTube, it clearly shows that she failed to understand what her audience likes. Furthermore, since she released the video after the release of her album, it was a wasted opportunity to redirect and repurpose the conversation around her critically panned record.
    The meme I made reflects these two scenarios that is occurring at this very moment, and parodies them with a repurposed political cartoon from the late Eighteenth Century. The cartoon originally was pointing out how England was acting out against the king. My goal by repurposing the image was to incorporate and transforming the disrespect the people had for their head of state into the disrespect that brands do to people when they fail to understand the nature of memes.


  14. I am somewhat amused by Milner’s idea of the meme as a dead form. As I think any person who uses the internet today can safely say, memes have not so much died out as merely evolved – character macros are now reaction gifs, etc. While Milner is correct that ‘original memes’ such as Hipster Cat are not used as commonly any more, they have certainly not disappeared. This is partially due to the fact that meme-ing itself has become a meme. He touches on this briefly with not only the Runescape meme (“Born just in time to browse dank memes”) but also on the appropriation and growth of the phrase ‘dank memes’ (42, 48). As he argues, ‘dank memes’ has become a meme itself – “The insult is every bit as memetic as the targets it’s applied to” (48). His failure in logic comes when he assumes the phrase ‘dank memes’ is automatically an insult. Certainly, it is typically meant with a degree of irony, but a friendly sort of irony. At least in my experience, it is generally agreed upon that memes, while lame, are enjoyable and therefore…dank.

    That being said, my meme, as a reflection of the resilience and longevity of the form, brings a revival of Hipster Cat. Which, by the way, can definitely not be classified amongst the dead memes now that one has been recently created which fulfills all Shifman’s criteria. It reappropriates the popular Hipster Cat character macro, is multimodal (text and image), resonates with its intended audience (this class), is part of a collective (the Hipster Cat canon), and will be spread to the class. Therefore, any and all “dead” memes which were reappropriated for this assignment were given fresh life, resurrected.


    Milner gave me a lot to think about regarding the cultural phenomena of memes. Hopefully, I translated some of this into my very own meme, and can elaborate on it in the following post.

    I used a semi-popular meme format (known as “Expanding the Brain” in some circles) to illustrate the process of reading the first chapter of The World Made Meme. Each left panel, of which there are four, corresponds with an image of a brain on the right. As the “title” of the meme suggests, the panels illustrate a progression of intellectuality and deeper thought going down vertically. The first panel is the small brain, the next the average brain, the third the expanding brain, and the fourth the enlightened brain. Usually, the fourth panel is the “punchline” of the meme.

    The shrunken brain neither knows nor cares of memes. The average brain is how most see memes, myself included most days: funny internet jokes using familiar and repeated formats. And yes, while many memes are funny pictures, Milner argues that they are much more than that.
    The third panel is what I’d call the meat of my meme. My aim is to analyze my own meme using the very facets of mimetic media explored in Milner’s work, and diagramed in said meme itself. Multimodality refers to the way memes “intertwine language, image, audio, video, hypertext, and more” (25). My meme is limited to simply text and image, neither of which draw inspiration from any other form of media (say television or music). My meme’s strengths do not lie in reappropriation either. This meme takes four semi-related images and binds them through context, however, it doesn’t feature a stock character macro as described on page 28. Milner states that “media texts become memetic when they connect with enough participants to inspire iteration after iteration from a fixed premise” (29). The “Expanding the Brain” format has been used countless times before me, and is still viable to be used countless times after (though it’s past its peak). Though emotional resonance is open to all forms of response, this meme aims for an emotional resonance through humor, and I chose the very format due to my own experience with resonance and this meme. As I mentioned before, this meme is popular enough that I was able to google a blank template of it with ease. The format spread rampant on social media. There is no, to my knowledge, author of this meme, nor do I know the origin of the four brain images. Though the creator of the idea is a mystery, each individual meme is authored and becomes part of a larger collective. And finally, spread. Milner cites Dawkins regarding spread. He summarizes that “if the internet is mimetic, it is mimetic because participants spread texts when they make their own” (37). In order to be a success, a meme has to spread. My meme, if I were to post it on social media, would likely not receive any spread; it is a niche. Despite this, you might have noticed the grainy, low-quality aspect to the image that makes it appear as though it has spread a great deal. This process is affectionately named “deep frying memes,” and involves lowering the quality of the mimetic image, often to the extent that it is barely intelligible. In certain cases, memes are organically deep fried through mass sharing across platforms. For example, a funny tweet is screenshot and uploaded on tumblr. Another person screenshots that on their phone and uploads it once more. Someone saves the image on their computer, edits it, and reuploads it. After a long chain of that, the image is left horribly pixelated and with four separate people’s battery life in the upper right corner. This “deep frying” eventually became a meme itself; to create the poorest quality image of a meme. In addition to being comedic, intentional deep frying creates the illusion that one’s meme has been fortunate enough to circulate across audiences and platforms; an artificial spread, which draws in an actual increase in spread. I used a program to deep fry my meme, which can be found at

    Finally, my fourth panel is all about how making a meme about the reading and analyzing it using that very reading is the “ultimate” meme usage; perhaps that was presumptuous of me. Hence, I filled that space with a much smaller picture of the meme itself: meme within a meme. Truly, the enlightened brain makes memes for class. And I put it in Comic Sans, because of course.


  16. I based my meme off of Andy Warhol’s famous pop art movement and recreated his banana into my rendition of what “Pop Art” could be. Milner speaks about the “bricoleur” and their job to be “a cultural participant who produces differently than the ‘craftsperson’” through “‘work[ing] with his hands and us[ing] devious means” (61). I had the flexibility of being able to use Warhol’s culturally significant banana in order to make a pun out of it and recreate what “pop” art means to me. Using Warhol’s classically duplicated and filtered photos, I featured an inflatable banana with a needle to highlight the name of this type of art. Of course pop art has no correlation to popping the art, but like other recreators, I twisted the meaning and gave Warhol’s bananas an alternative meaning.
    Milner also writes, “if memetic cultural theory is going to apply to memetic media, then that theory has to account for the blend of imitation and transformation in social conversation” (73). Memetic cultural theory must include the appropriation and reappropriation into the dialogue when analyzing memes. My “Pop Art” meme should be viewed with Warhol’s works in mind and speaks to the irony of the name pop art. Memes “craft their point by overlaying a quip on a single still image,” producing an entirely new meaning and creating a conversation about the cultural object. Memes have grown to be a defining signifier for our generation, producing ironic and culturally relevant multimodal images that generate conversations in multiple settings with various subcultures. Milner describes memes as “small expressions with big implications” (14). I view memes as culturally relevant and we are able to express our opinions politically and socially through a creative platform. However, I disagree in that individual memes have big implications. I scroll through many memes on Facebook and consider them quickly, but none of them are stuck in my cultural memory. To that point, holistically, memes are significant to our contemporary culture but each meme varies in weight.


  17. In “Logics: The Fundamentals of Memetic Participation,” Milner discusses how the Joker meme’s “original use of ‘everyone’ to ‘everybody,’ a common shift in the meme…can carry innovations as limitless as the participants creating them” (69). Milner’s observation of the movement leads me to revisit my first experience with something meme-like: an app in which—the name escapes me—a photo is taken and a random phrase would appear above and below the picture. It usually reads something grotesque. However, at thirteen, this was the best thing since sliced bread. We all pronounced them mehmehs.

    The reason I chose my meme is that its significance lies in its density. Fidelity, as Milner asserts, “only resonates to a point” (69). Just as the photo that I took eight years ago still carries scholarship today. Millions of other people had the same phrase plastered to their very own photo. And, while it’s likely this app no longer exists, I recreated what I thought to be a replica. It reads the same as it did in middle school “I fuck on the first date.” While the image perfectly captures the obscene language, it also brings to mind the fluidity in which meme language can be appropriated, reused, and recycled.

    Though the photo is original, the text is not. In fact, the phrase existed before people even understood the modern concept of the meme. And while the phrase exists to shock, it still resonates and will indeed with embarrassing celebrity pictures taken every day. Because this picture lacks fidelity in its phrasing, it can be appropriated. It can even be used in memes that have already been assumed—The Most Interesting Man in The World meme has its own rendition of my randomized middle school creation.



    For this assignment, I created a meme somewhat different than the examples Milner provides in his first two chapters of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media. In this work he provides the basic layout of some of the most widespread forms of memes; include a stock or appropriated image overlaid with a unique text that provides a quick punchline. However, even during the writing of these chapters Milner discusses their inevitable expiration stating, “A study of the formal and social structures underscoring memetic media has to reckon with the alleged demise of their cultural resonance” (43). Given the inherently ironic and self-aware nature of memes, one could argue that the existence of such a thorough and serious academic study as well as our own course are contributing to such lack of relevancy. But Milner argues that just because these specific formats for memes may not have the same novelty today as they did four or five years ago, the larger concept of mimetic expression is still very present in a variety of mediums and performances.
    The most recent image-based memes I have become familiar with differ from previous forms in that the caption is often plain text separated and above a unique image. The meme I created fits more closely in this format and is similar to the Kanye WesAnderson memes, in which both the caption and image are appropriated from other sources. However, the multimodality of my own meme stems from the more obscure sources of meme culture itself and Roland Barthes’ text “Death of the Author.” Another difference is that the appropriated meme is a caption and not an image; the rhetorical question “Who made this?” becoming a more philosophical question attached with Barthes. I chose this caption because I found a great deal of irony inherent to an internet user asking the origin of the stolen image. Milner’s statement that, “Finding [a meme’s] creator and site of origin is largely impossible, and arguably inconsequential when considering how they resonate” (15), is supported by the argument in Barthe’s excerpt that I included in my meme. I created an example of Milner’s definition of reappropriation, “borrowing from the contributions of others, and transforming those contributions into something unique” (61) to highlight the complexities and irony internet-meme appropriation provide in the context of our course.



    *Spoiler warning for Game of Thrones season 7

    With regard to the multimodality of memes, Milner writes that it is a “lynchpin logic of memetic media” (25). Since all memetic media is digital, there are infinite ways to circulate and transform information to make it entertaining to its viewers. This is what I’ve attempted to do with the meme I’ve created. The “West Anderson” memes that Milner uses as his example combine pop-culture music with pop-culture film to create images that are humorous—especially to those who are familiar with both references. My meme combines pop-culture television—in this case “Game of Thrones”—with a popular NBA joke, a reference to Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    Now if you are anything like me and are a fan of both basketball and GoT, you might be familiar with the Kareem coffee joke and know that a large issue that the Internet seemed to have with the featured scene is that the Night King doesn’t throw his spear at the dragon that was immobile and grounded, rather he nonsensically hucks it at the one flying through the sky at an alarming rate. Who’s to say that the reason behind this nonsense decision making was not for the Night King’s zombie buddy who challenged the NK to knock the dragon out of the sky instead of going for the easy target? In any case, I’ve tried to provide logic to a plot hole by combining two mediums of pop-culture into one memetic outlet.

    Something else I took away from Milner’s essay was his reference to Barthes’s “death of the author.” Something I’ve always found most fascinating about the memes that go viral is that nowhere can you find a signature or any indication of the meme’s creator. I always wondered if the author was frustrated—after all, who doesn’t want to be credited for their work? However, Milner suggests that this lack of authorship is part of what makes memes beautiful—that they cannot be ascribed to a single creator, rather they are among a series of “collective appropriation” among the Internet’s most imaginative participants.



    In my meme, I used the classic “doge” image of a side-eyeing shiba inu, which is typically accompanied by multiple phrases, usually in broken or abbreviated English, in the widely-disliked font comic sans. (The doge meme itself has been reinvented in many forms: it can be shown pixelated, with a spongecake or loaf of bread for a body, or with Nicolas Cage’s face photoshopped atop the dog’s, to name a few. I, however, have chosen this meme in its most basic form.) With the text I used, I stuck to the doge’s grammatically incorrect trademark excited phrases, such as “such subculture,” “very memetic,” “so dead,” and “such lifestyle,” in addition to including the classic “wow” at the top of the image. This was in reference to an anecdote that Milner begins “Grammar: Structures for Making Statements and Making Do” with. Milner recalls discussing his dissertation subject matter with an undergraduate student, who shares, “I remember memes… They were really big in high school” (43). It is at this moment, Milner writes, that he views memes as a “dead communicative genre” (43). I also pay homage to what author Whitney Phillips says of documenting memetic culture: “It became painfully clear that I was no longer writing a study of emergent subcultural phenomena. I was instead cataloging a subcultural lifecycle” (46).

    Phillips’ use of the word “lifecycle” is particularly striking here, because it highlights what I perceive to be a key factor of memetic: memes are cyclical. Where one form of a meme may die, a variation of it may be created as that meme begins to decline in popularity. Similarly, there has been a recent observable trend of bringing back “dead memes,” which many of my classmates have done in their blogposts. Meme longevity, then, is rare, and only exists in a handful of cases. The doge is one of those cases; it has remained on KnowYourMeme’s “most popular” list for years. Perhaps this is because of the cute dog it depicts, but maybe this is because of the freedom of text, text placement, and general variation it allows for.


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