Memes Wiki

Course wiki for ENGL 2930: Dreams, Memes, and Twittering Machines

Notes on Political Participation in Memes

Start w Shifman's idea of political participation chap 8.

When a reader uses the image of a politically active figure, they are engaging in political speech. Using a sign from political realm, they are using political language. Using a backstage image they are appropriating. These are politically charged images.

We don't have to be involved in where the meme stands in relation to our politics. We're interested in seeing how the meme makers refashion the image to change the meaning. We're looking at someone else's political participation.
With that said, political speech by memes tends to critique or call into question the dominant message. That's a characteristic of political speech. It tends to run against whatever is in power at the moment. Our question address, How - in what manner? by what techniques? - does it question what?

It's also doubtful that these images persuade others to change position so much as affirm or harden positions. But they might also be seen as attempting to shift values and warrants.

We need to look at the elements more intently.

Sihifman's review of political memes found 4 functions (122-3)

  • memes being used as forms of persuasion or advocacy
  • memes a grassroots action -
    • memes as expression and public discussion
    • memes as democratic subversion - subversion of the non-democratic state

    Other characteristics

  • use of images from other domains: pop culture images, fine art, other media streams
  • shifts in tone and style: these can become pretty subtle and arise from comparison

Common Trait in Political Memes

An organized interplay between front-stage and back-stage performances (140)

Political memes that Shifman has analyzed ,

reveal the "backstage" strategies that politicians and reporters use in order to sound persuasive and authoritative....

Concept of back-stage and front-stage are being used differently in the two memes we're working with.

Both memes are dependent on the political context of the founder for meaning. We need to know the situation represented in the founder: the time, place, people involved, political context, responses to the original image.

Shifman traces a few trends in technique in how meme-makers work with back-stage and front-stage. pp 140-142. There is more to say.