13 votes

Memes Are Our Generation's Protest Art

18 comments

  1. [3]
    maze Link
    They are mostly our generations bathroom wall scribblings in digital form.

    They are mostly our generations bathroom wall scribblings in digital form.

    19 votes
    1. Whom Link Parent
      I'm not sure those things contradict each other! I think most public political/protest art I've seen has been in the form of shitty little scribblings on a bathroom wall.

      I'm not sure those things contradict each other! I think most public political/protest art I've seen has been in the form of shitty little scribblings on a bathroom wall.

      11 votes
  2. [12]
    Ephemere Link
    God, I hope not. I imagine I'm romanticizing the memorable protest art of the past. Doubtless it was almost all terrible, and we only remember the few, excellent pieces. But... still.

    God, I hope not.

    I imagine I'm romanticizing the memorable protest art of the past. Doubtless it was almost all terrible, and we only remember the few, excellent pieces. But... still.

    6 votes
    1. [11]
      balooga Link Parent
      Clearly I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but I am so ready for culture to move beyond this meme mania. I'm honestly amazed it's lasted as long as it has.

      Clearly I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but I am so ready for culture to move beyond this meme mania. I'm honestly amazed it's lasted as long as it has.

      2 votes
      1. [9]
        Whom (edited ) Link Parent
        I don't think you can connect humanity like the internet has done without having something you can call a "meme". If we have a quick way to share images, videos, jokes, or whatever else, we'll...

        I don't think you can connect humanity like the internet has done without having something you can call a "meme". If we have a quick way to share images, videos, jokes, or whatever else, we'll widely share them.

        Current formats and such will die, but unless modern communication collapses, memes of some kind are here to stay.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          stephen Link Parent
          I don't know about you but I intend to be memeing well after world ecological collapse causes communications networks to collapse.

          I don't know about you but I intend to be memeing well after world ecological collapse causes communications networks to collapse.

          5 votes
        2. [6]
          xstresedg Link Parent
          Memes have always existed in some form, whether verbal, written, or image-based. It was used for politics, philosophy, humour, religion, etc. It's not something new and it's not something going...

          Memes have always existed in some form, whether verbal, written, or image-based. It was used for politics, philosophy, humour, religion, etc. It's not something new and it's not something going away, but as you said, will experience a change of format.

          2 votes
          1. [5]
            Whom Link Parent
            Well, regardless of if you want to push the original and more broad definition of the term, I think even what we understand more specifically as an "internet meme" to be is here to stay. That...

            Well, regardless of if you want to push the original and more broad definition of the term, I think even what we understand more specifically as an "internet meme" to be is here to stay. That manner of making new edits to fit every situation and sharing it to continue that process will continue, I don't think we go back to the more static older forms.

            Where things go, I'm not sure. We've been at the "post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-irony" point for years now and I think getting more esoteric is losing its shock value and there will need to be a new direction.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              balooga Link Parent
              Yeah, I think the Dawkinsian meaning of the word "meme" is being conflated with the more popular "image macro and derivatives" sense in this thread. Of course people will continue to share ideas,...

              Yeah, I think the Dawkinsian meaning of the word "meme" is being conflated with the more popular "image macro and derivatives" sense in this thread.

              Of course people will continue to share ideas, etc., using every method at our disposal. It's just what humans do. I'm just burned out on the low-effort, constantly distracted, emoji/gif fake news culture we're in right now and I feel like "the meme" is at the epicenter of that.

              5 votes
              1. Whom Link Parent
                Yeah, but what I (kinda unclearly) was trying to say is that I think even when we're talking about image macros, reaction gifs, and other things that are distinctly "internet," I don't think we...

                Yeah, but what I (kinda unclearly) was trying to say is that I think even when we're talking about image macros, reaction gifs, and other things that are distinctly "internet," I don't think we have a way out there. The specific ones will always be dying and and new ones will be born, and eventually we'll get to a point where there's no one left who uses impact text...but I don't think the end is near for that.

                I understand being tired of it, but I'm always holding out for better forms of these things to pop up (which they do, sometimes) rather than focusing on memes as a whole. I think that's an easy way to just fall apart...I've fallen into discounting entire popular art forms like that before and it's just asking for extra exhaustion.

                Not to say we should make peace with the actively harmful misinformation and such that comes along with all that. Just the parts that are silly and annoying :P

            2. [2]
              Atvelonis Link Parent
              I mentioned in my other comment that the most interesting memes tend to be the multi-layered ones. Compared to simple jokes, which are funny perhaps once or twice, I think this will always be the...

              Where things go, I'm not sure. We've been at the "post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-post-irony" point for years now and I think getting more esoteric is losing its shock value and there will need to be a new direction.

              I mentioned in my other comment that the most interesting memes tend to be the multi-layered ones. Compared to simple jokes, which are funny perhaps once or twice, I think this will always be the case. I can look at a tri-layered ironic meme and get a laugh out of it much more than I could with an original Twitter post with a stupid caption. Creative memes, ones that rely on the audience having preexisting knowledge of other memes, are like inside jokes for meme viewers. It is this very "esotericism" that makes them fascinating to me.

              You make a very good point, though, that we seem to have ground to a halt as far as the structure of meme development is concerned. That is, every meme seems to go through a very similar life cycle. First it is a joke, usually non-ironic, and then it is either satirized and shared ironically or its physically changed. Then various levels of irony and connections to other memes appear, until it becomes too top-heavy—the casual viewer can no longer follow all of the meta comments in the meme, so it begins to lose its value for most folks. You can only add two or three layers to it before people lose focus somewhat, so all memes eventually gravitate toward pretty much exactly this level of depth. The exact subject matter of the things being connected to will change from meme to meme, of course, but the problem is that they aren't adding anything more to the meme, just switching up what's already there. It can still be funny, but it loses its creative momentum.

              I have no idea how to address this issue, though. How can you make a meme more interesting without connecting it to other memes/ideas, or by changing its medium? What direction could memes even take in the future?

              3 votes
              1. Whom Link Parent
                I view the tendency toward more and more esoteric memes a lot like the race for more and more aggressive music. The story of music in the 20th century was a whole lot of things getting more and...

                I view the tendency toward more and more esoteric memes a lot like the race for more and more aggressive music. The story of music in the 20th century was a whole lot of things getting more and more abrasive in certain circles, and we quickly (on the scale of music as a whole, I guess) got to a point where you can't shock well-seasoned music listeners anymore. Your harsh noise won't offend or anger anyone "in the know," so you have to move beyond the aesthetic. It becomes all about being interesting songwriters and having neat ideas instead of pushing things along this one axis.

                I think we have a similar thing in memes. Okay, you can't win by just being the weirdest, the hardest to understand, or the most shocking anymore...at least not with the insiders. What do you do? Well, we're back to the immaterial things that are hard to grasp at...like just having good jokes or making a clever point. It's hard to conceptualize a way forward because it isn't a clear aesthetic one like it was in the past, but that's all that's left unless someone finds another aspect to push forward. Of course, it'll all be typically postmodern where because we reached that limit, we go off in a million different directions and it's hard to even make a narrative of it all :P

                Reaching an end for "layers" means we've gotta search for a replacement, or just get stale.

                2 votes
      2. cloudwizard Link Parent
        meme mania is a natural outpouring. It's an inevitable result of the existence of culture.

        meme mania is a natural outpouring. It's an inevitable result of the existence of culture.

  3. Atvelonis Link
    I don't think a lot of the memes shown in that article are really the sort of thing that I would describe as being at the intellectual forefront of this generation's artistic endeavors. The thing...

    I don't think a lot of the memes shown in that article are really the sort of thing that I would describe as being at the intellectual forefront of this generation's artistic endeavors. The thing that makes a good meme isn't simply that it's content shared on a social media platform, but fundamentally the way that it builds upon and/or undermines existing content, satirizing it or otherwise using said content to get a point across in a creative way. To take it a step further, the truly good memes have multiple layers of inside jokes and/or irony; you need to be able to be pretty well-entrenched in meme culture to fully appreciate the best-crafted ones.

    The embroidery meme, for example, is a nice example of a solid two-layer meme. On the surface level, there is the Arthur fist meme, which is a very simplified way to represent anger (or a similar emotion) toward something. This meme, in and of itself, is amusing enough to get shared on the internet because it can be applied to a lot of things, but simply being funny doesn't make it a groundbreaking meme. However, by hand-stitching an image of the meme in the real world and adding something of her own to the image, Hanecdote conveys a political statement in a novel way. You can take these things much further (three or four or more layers of creativity/irony), and when done properly it can be absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately, with each added layer of creativity comes a roadblock for casual meme-viewers; they become harder to understand, and often require explanation. Thus, it is the more low-effort memes that are typically the most popular.

    For instance, a Biden meme like this one is pretty boring. It doesn't do anything creative: it simply applies a funny caption to an image of Biden and Obama walking together. Like a single-layer version of the Arthur meme, it might be amusing very briefly, but ultimately isn't very interesting. It needs something else to give it that spark; a meta reference to a political event, or, ideally, another meme doing just that. On its own, though, it's unremarkable. This is the thing that I think a lot of people fail to see. They look at the most boring memes out there, often the most popular ones, and assume that all memes are like that; that they cannot ever be truly interesting, because the ones they've seen get old so quickly.

    The best part about memes isn't their intrinsic humor, it's what you can do with them yourself; they are a manifestation of your creative energy in a way that is hard to accomplish in other media. Memes do have a place in the realm of art, especially political art, but they also have to be understood for what they are.

    3 votes
  4. Eva Link
    Incredibly stupid, clickbaitish statement, in my opinion. Protest albums are still being released and memes aren't near them.

    Incredibly stupid, clickbaitish statement, in my opinion. Protest albums are still being released and memes aren't near them.

    2 votes
  5. DonQuixote Link
    Post (n+1) irony: Talking about memes on social media.

    Post (n+1) irony: Talking about memes on social media.

    The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[19] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[20] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmission—in the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. ~ Wikipedia

    Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. ~ Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene 1976

    1 vote