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Memes in Digital Culture by Limor Shifman
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Memes in Digital Culture

by Limor Shifman

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Attempts to define memes (and distinguish them from partially overlapping concepts like virality) as highly transmissible and reconfigurable units of digital culture. I was struck by the conclusion that very popular “user-generated” videos tend to be about “flawed masculinity”—something Shifman didn’t set out to study. Men were mostly the leading characters, and they generally failed to meet cultural standards for masculinity in some way or another, from the Numa Numa guy to the Star Wars kid to Chris Crocker in “Leave Britney Alone.” As elsewhere, “flawed” initial texts prove most open to reworking, since they invite responses/corrections.

I also really liked the observation that the genre of “advice animals” (also including human characters) like Fanfic Flamingo, as an array of stock character macros, “provides a glimpse into the drama of morality of the First World of the twenty-first century: it is a conceptual map of types that represent exaggerated forms of behavior….[T]hese extreme forms tend to focus on success and failure in the social life of a particular group.” In other words, they’re Pilgrim’s Progress for the 21st century. And this bit about the memetic force of “Gagnam Style,” which Shifman argues was suitable for wide adaptation because of the “connotative richness of the word ‘style’ … the ‘visible manifestation of social meanings.’” Thus Psy’s video could be repurposed to express national, regional, or subcultural entities, from “Mexi Style” to “Romney Style” to (my favorite) “NASA Johnson Style.” ( )
  rivkat | Apr 6, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0262525437, Paperback)

In December 2012, the exuberant video "Gangnam Style" became the first YouTube clip to be viewed more than one billion times. Thousands of its viewers responded by creating and posting their own variations of the video--"Mitt Romney Style," "NASA Johnson Style," "Egyptian Style," and many others. "Gangnam Style" (and its attendant parodies, imitations, and derivations) is one of the most famous examples of an Internet meme: a piece of digital content that spreads quickly around the web in various iterations and becomes a shared cultural experience. In this book, Limor Shifman investigates Internet memes and what they tell us about digital culture.

Shifman discusses a series of well-known Internet memes -- including "Leave Britney Alone," the pepper-spraying cop, LOLCats, Scumbag Steve, and Occupy Wall Street's "We Are the 99 Percent." She offers a novel definition of Internet memes: digital content units with common characteristics, created with awareness of each other, and circulated, imitated, and transformed via the Internet by many users. She differentiates memes from virals; analyzes what makes memes and virals successful; describes popular meme genres; discusses memes as new modes of political participation in democratic and nondemocratic regimes; and examines memes as agents of globalization.

Memes, Shifman argues, encapsulate some of the most fundamental aspects of the Internet in general and of the participatory Web 2.0 culture in particular. Internet memes may be entertaining, but in this book Limor Shifman makes a compelling argument for taking them seriously.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:13 -0400)

In December 2012, the exuberant video "Gangnam Style" became the first YouTube clip to be viewed more than one billion times. Thousands of its viewers responded by creating and posting their own variations of the video: "Mitt Romney Style," "NASA Johnson Style," "Egyptian Style," and many others. "Gangnam Style" (and its attendant parodies, imitations, and derivations) is one of the most famous examples of an Internet meme: a piece of digital content that spreads quickly around the Web in various iterations and becomes a shared cultural experience. In this book, the author investigates Internet memes and what they tell us about digital culture. She discusses a series of well-known Internet memes, including "Leave Britney Alone," the pepper-spraying cop, LOLCats, Scumbag Steve, and Occupy Wall Street's "We Are the 99 Percent." She offers a novel definition of Internet memes: digital content units with common characteristics, created with awareness of each other, and circulated, imitated, and transformed via the Internet by many users. She differentiates memes from virals; analyzes what makes memes and virals successful; describes popular meme genres; discusses memes as new modes of political participation in democratic and nondemocratic regimes; and examines memes as agents of globalization. Memes, the author argues, encapsulate some of the most fundamental aspects of the Internet in general and of the participatory Web 2.0 culture in particular. Internet memes may be entertaining, but in this book the author makes a compelling argument for taking them seriously. -- Publisher's description.… (more)

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