It doesn’t matter whether the Game of Thrones, Success Kid or Awkward Penguin is your favourite meme – they are changing the way we communicate.
The meme’s story began long before the internet was a thing though.
Richard Dawkins coined the phrase meme to cover how ideas, behaviours, or styles spread from person to person within a culture.
He came up with the word in his 1976 book called The Selfish Gene. Long before the internet. Just like with hashtags, it’s another thing the internet has
The history of the internet podcast has dedicated its second episode to what Dawkins described as the ‘hijack’ of his word.
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Dawkins’ original theory, as his book title suggests, began in the way genes mutate by random change and spread by a form of Darwinian selection.
The reason Dawkins describes it as a hijack is because internet memes make no attempt at the accuracy of copying. It’s a a key part of his definition and Internet memes are deliberately altered.
We need to take internet memes seriously
The academic and everyday literacies blogger, Michele Knobel, first studied internet memetics back in 2005. When she first looked at them they were very marginal.
In this documentary, she gave a new reflection the way we talk online.
“Humans communicate on so many different dimensions. Memes add layers of meaning to a medium that can otherwise be rather flat.’
The way our online conversations have evolved has normalised the use of internet memes.
Victoria Emma who wrote her PHD on them thinks we need to pay more attention to them:
‘If millions of people use them to communicate every day, there must be something to them. We can’t just dismiss them as internet cats.’
There is a reason I reply in a gif, emoji or memes online more often than just text.
Yes, admittedly, it’s partly because I like to be king of the gif game.
However, it’s also because they say so much more when our body language can’t carry my words online in the same way they do IRL.
That’s why memes are so fascinating, and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Subscribe to podcast documentary series the History of the Internet to listen to more about why the meme is changing the way we are developing as humans, on Apple Podcasts, with RSS, audioBoom, or wherever you listen to your shows.
OH, and btw my fave internet meme features the best two characters ever created
Buzz and Woody, you always say it best:
P.S that’s why we used their picture forepisode one about hashtags – read about that here
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