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  • Jeff T. Johnson 15:09 on August 10, 2014 Permalink |  

    Like a Hurricane 

    In 2011, after Hurricane Irene hit, or pretended to hit New York, a photo went around Facebook of a lawn chair set with one chair on its side. Other people started posting their own photos of lightweight objects slightly askew. I thought it was hilarious and dull-witty at the time.

    About a year later, Hurricane Sandy arrived like the revenge of Irene. Shit really did blow over (trees, houses, seaside amusement parks), and the punch of the Irene macro was lost. In retrospect, it probably seemed to come from a more innocent and willfully ignorant time. Did we buy less flashlights before Sandy? Maybe. We certainly didn’t know to make sure we had a full tank of gas before the storm hit.

    One thing I remember about the Sandy aftermath was the novel feeling of disconnection in NY. We couldn’t get to Manhattan from Brooklyn, and parts of our borough were also inaccessible to us. We received news about Red Hook and the Rockaways by word of mouth, rather than primarily over the internet. It was like virtual and actual networks were damaged in the storm, but in uneven ways. Was the lower east side under water? Was that photo of a shark in the rearview mirror of a car, swimming down a street, real? Were our friends imperiled, or were they in the midst of a neighborhood party with no ins or outs?

    I’m trying to connect that broken or ruptured circuit with the breaking of a meme cycle, though I’m not sure if it’s working. At least I feel like I can say the lawn chair macro was contingent on particular attitudes about a particular storm, and those attitudes (along with the macro) were blown away by the very different conditions of the next major storm to hit the east coast. In terms of semiotics, maybe you could say “storm” meant something different in New York in late 2012 than it did in late 2011 (even as people in other parts of the world were less hubristic and flippant about storms in 2011).

    • constancex 15:18 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I can’t make sense of “dull-witty,” (is it like dull-witted?) but I remember that w/r/t a rare East Coast earthquake.


      • Jeff T. Johnson 15:23 on August 10, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        i meant to suggest a kind of flat or obvious wittiness, something like college humor (and of course like much meme humor).

        there was indeed a rare ny earthquake a week before irene, and a variation on the lawnchair macro but with text that said 8/23/2011 NEVER FORGET. pretty sure it mutated into the Irene macro:


  • ccboca 12:29 on August 8, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 6: Post-semiotics and Memory 


    mona michael

    Definitely agree that semiotics is really the way to go with analysis of representation, but that it needs to be re-jigged to handle the visual, the mobile, the ephemeral and the mutating. C.S. Peirce’s work is not read much, and largely not understood. Tony Jappy’s new book, Introduction to Peircian Visual Semiotics (Bloomsbury Advances in Semiotics), Bloomsbury Academic: London, 2013 is probably a start. It does map out the theoretical terrain but does not give applied or useful “appliable” analysis, this step is being worked on by a number of visual semioticians who take different approaches. But the post-semiotic or the post-structural semiotics of today is a messy fragmented field.

    My dead meme comes from a pool that I inconsistently curate: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/mona-lisa-shopped/photos

    I thought I could resucitate it by working on it (it was deadpooled before I started) but it seems there is no redemption and that all decisions on whether a meme is alive or dead on this particular site is decided by a group of “insiders” who have their own secret metrics of how they do this. It is subjective and partial to say the least. But it points also to the fact that not all memes die of natural causes- which must be taken into account in our analyses.

    Anyhow, here’s Mona, she was a meme before memes and will probably last long after… dead or alive!

    ps. I am glad duck lips are dead…. but they seem to have been replaced by rabbit eyes??


  • clairedonato 13:19 on August 7, 2014 Permalink |  

    Dead Meme: We Are the 1%, We Stand with the 99% 

    We Are the 1%, We Stand with the 99% was a tumblr of memes that went viral at the time of Occupy Wall Street’s inception. (Forgive me if I’m misusing “memes” and “viral” here.) On the site, self-identified members of the 1% post selfies in which they hold (usually handwritten) notes about their privilege up to the camera. Often we see their faces, as in this photograph:


    Other times, their faces are obscured:


    Occasionally, their notes are typed:


    And sometimes, contributors are not American:


    The tumblr has not been active since July 2012. In lieu of leisurely activism, maybe the 1% returned to their jet-skis and and art schools? (Indeed, I take issue with—or at least sigh in the general direction of—this misguided meme.)

    When considering memes in the expanded sense, the terms “the 1%” and “the 99%” may considered memetic, although these terms are not necessarily the types of internet memes described in Memmott’s “Gestic Play: Iterative, Performative, and Emergent Memes” (though they can components of internet memes). In fact, these terms do fall under the general dictionary definition of what a meme is—something circulated through culture, from one person to the next. However, as someone mentioned in a comment on this blog, memes (in the Memmott-ian sense) are always performative, and I’m trying to figure out what it means for individuals to physically embody/perform the 1% and the 99% (and in the case of this tumblr, sometimes both the 1% and the 99%, a strange appropriation).

    One other issue I’m having is how to distinguish between the dictionary definition of a meme (memes in a general sense), the definition of memes established in this class (let’s say Memes), and an expanded field of memes (memeism?, which may include micro-memes used by specific small communities as well as non-image based memes such as hashtags, slogans, etc.), which may be informed by both of these definitions.

    • clairedonato 13:27 on August 7, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Ok, Jeff and I decided that maybe this meme represents what happens when a general meme (e.g. the 1%) becomes a Meme (in the Memmott-ian sense).


    • constancex 17:33 on August 7, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Re: gestic, performative; they hold up the note, they hold their mouths in the same position.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ajabine 08:08 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      So, somebody named Memmott is a meme scholar? That’s funny. (I know, totally off-topic, but I always go off on a tangent when I feel I’m out of my depth.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • clairedonato 12:11 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Ajabine, I felt out of my depth while writing this; glad to hear I’m in good company! 🙂 Talan Memmott is one of the organizers of this class; he’s currently in the process of completing meme scholarship. My partner Jeff (who is in this class) and I heard him give an excellent talk on the subject at the Electronic Literature Organization conference at UW-Milwaukee in June. The piece I cite here, “Gestic Play: Iterative, Performative, and Emergent Memes,” is the first lecture from this website, and informed the talk.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Talan Memmott 13:27 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Yeah, that Memmott would be me… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • ajabine 23:19 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Every klass needs a klown, I guess I’m it this time. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  • lisacramp 23:29 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 6: Hey Girl 

    gosling-saturday1rg-nyeFeminist Ryan Gosling has got to be a tired, overly posted meme by now, right? What started at as an ironic pinup to “male feminism” (or perhaps a covert fetishism of a hollywood star) has seen it’s time in the sun. Maybe it was when there was a book published encapsulating the memes in a traditional sense or perhaps when the mormons began posting their own version talking about shopping for fabric did this meme die a sad lonely death. Like the teenage rebels say, when your mom knows about it, it’s not cool anymore.


    Ode to a Bro

    I’m done with the books, you only wanted the abs,

    Judith Butler and Helene Cixous.

    “My eyes are up HERE!”

    I’m putting the Cleveland Indians Jersey on,

    Pabst Blue Ribbon, bacon on my burger.

    Rand Paul doesn’t seem so bad.

    Fuck kale, dude.







  • constancex 17:52 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  

    Assign #3 Yeah, what's it. 

    I did a spec campaign of cat food advertisements for an ad portfolio in 2005 and was advised to take them out — that too many people hate cats, and I should go with a safer subject lest I really turn off an ad exec cat-hater out of the gate. Nine years later, that sounds absurd. Everybody loves these little murderers.

    This is from a sheet from The Onion in 2006. It did open up, and opens up, a world of possibilities.

    kitten-murder Are the cute typecast as incapable of murder? Now anything can happen. And, of course, it was always true that cats are huge murderers (See The Oatmeal, How Much Do Cats Actually Kill), and infants, until they can deal with the complexities of human interaction, also dream of annihilation.

    Murderous Kitten Today? A cat well into adulthood. The meme doesn’t have the same power, now that people can chew on several hours of feline cute a day if they please. He can’t surprise anymore. What can? Even the inanimate “have done.” Hmmm.

  • ajabine 13:08 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  

    Carry On Redux 

    1. At the risk of sounding all sucky-uppy, what an inspiring assignment! I admit, you did kind of lose me when you introduced “post semiotics” and the possibility of meme variants cancelling each other out. I was getting to think that the main features of internet memes are a) they are transmitted widely, and b) they mutate. Maybe the mutating part is an optional feature? Anyway. Being short of time, I asked my FB pals for an outdated meme and, as usual, they quickly came up with several options:

    this meme is worn out

    It is, of course, based on the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme, which was a British WWII-era inspirational poster that resurfaced in the year 2000 (so says Wikipedia). The first time I saw it, the caption read, “Keep Calm and Carry a Wand,” an amusing reference to the Harry Potter franchise. I for one don’t think this meme has peaked. There’s plenty of life in the old girl yet. Her simplicity and classic “crown” logo make her timeless. The same cannot be said for all the expired memes featuring C-list TV personalities.

    2. It is entirely immaterial to this meme whether she is recognized or not. She has been through a lot. After all, it was in 1939 that the British Ministry of Information printed 2.45 million copies of her to bolster British morale in the face of Germany’s air attacks. But for some reason she was never displayed! The vast majority of the posters were pulped in 1940 as part of paper salvage campaign. Yet she carried on, calmly. And so she remains calm now, secure in the conviction that as long as there is a Britain–yea, even if the British monarchy should finally collapse–she will carry on, knowing that she epitomizes everything that is noble and enduring about Merrie England..

  • jeremyjameshight 23:00 on August 5, 2014 Permalink |  

    Post Semiotics and Memery 

    The lifespan of a meme: digital Wheaties for pop culture ripples

    190035_10150104176917404_170350842403_6386340_710597_nthismeanssomething (1)

    Nyan Nyan Catabag. Numa Numa guy. Star Wars kid. Nickelback as meta for bad. These are echoes from a near past. There are many others in many languages. They had no 8 bit funerals, no tears from we got a bad ass in here or songs played on guitar by Tom Selleck by a waterfall with a sandwich. They are undead but at the zombie stage of disuse of cliches, the lepers of language, quarantined away by overuse. Like cliches they worked well and on a certain knife through butter as a rolling stone gathers no moss chains on my heart way still do, but in near absentia, in a distant realm of cooling magma, of a certain kind of semiotic death. These are the memes who have lived their life. Once they were famous like pop stars, shared like the news of botox on that celebrity who did that stuff.


    What is the life span of a meme? What factors breathe life into this text and image, this pop culture fragment, this post post post post post modern post mash up shard? What peaks its life? What factors then curdle and take the thing from this (digital/shared) world? What sustains some longer than others? Is it a semiotic bouyance , a kind of updraft of timely relevance? Or is it more a time line of a rise and fall/birth and death/ a lifespan?


    semiotic_triad Semiotics deals with connotative and denotative meanings , what something literally is and what it suggests or symbolizes. An interesting thing happens however when one considers how several people can have different semiotic interpretations. This can be (a bit overly stated perhaps) labeled as “post semiotics”. A meme can have a specific literal read but some more subtle memes can be interpreted in several ways. The question then arises (post semiotically and so forth) could they negate each other? Perhaps part of the life span’s ebb with a meme is a shift in ways it can be interpreted or related to; perhaps some memes fade as they fall into non specificity…the lack of one primary quick read to post and share.

    Your assignment:

    1. Find and post a long dead meme (can be in any language). What made It peak in memey goodness and yummy usage? What made it fall away ?
    1. Write a 2 paragraph poem or bit of prose imagining what your meme is doing now and where it resides on the system of tubes/interwebs. Is it bitter and vengeful at its loss of fame ? Is it instead more at peace away from the grubby hands of so many shares ?
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