Memes: Can We Take Them Seriously?

Humor as a political weapon – The phenomenon of memes 

The term “meme” was introduced by biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene (1976). As part of his larger effort to apply evolutionary theory to cultural change, Dawkins defined memes as small cultural units of transmission, analogous to genes, that spread from person to person by copying or imitation.

Internet memes can be treated as (post)modern folklore, in which shared norms and values are constructed through cultural artifacts such as photoshopped images or urban legends. Lynne S. McNeill

According to Shifman, what Internet users seemed to have grasped—and Richard Dawkins couldn’t have imagined back in 1976—is that the meme is the best concept to encapsulate some of the most fundamental aspects of the Internet. Three main attributes ascribed to memes are particularly relevant to the analysis of contemporary digital culture: 

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The Handmaid’s Tale-Inspired Protests

Mass media might be enormously persuasive, but people’s principal main way to engage with mass media is passive receptive. According to Leah A. Lievrouw (2011), exposure to or reception of a message might or might not provoke a receiver to act. 

Pro-choice supporters at a Rosa rally in Londonderry, Northern Ireland

One recent message that has made a powerful impact is The Handmaid’s Tale, which has inspired protests because it does not merely contribute content to a demonstration, it has become a symbol of resistance. People all over the world are wearing red cloaks and white bonnets to protest various injustices, particularly regarding women’s rights. 

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From the Glossy Surfaces of Women’s Magazines to Humanitarian Activism

Internet culture is constantly changing. Nowadays, in contrast to traditional protest methods, a click is enough to be part of a movement, support it, and make it viral. Many organizations invite us to support causes we might agree with. In this sense, we can all become activists. One of these organizations is the UN and its UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador initiative.

“The chance to make a real difference is not an opportunity that everyone is given and is one I have no intention of taking lightly. Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting. I still have so much to learn, but as I progress I hope to bring more of my individual knowledge, experience, and awareness to this role.” Emma Watson, a UN Goodwill ambassador.

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