This lab is adapted from one developed by English Department Ph.D. student Kevin Smith, who TA’ed Technologies of Text in Fall 2014. I’ve included a number of memes created by that year’s students below to inspire you.

In class today we talked about how memes are created, why they work (when they work), and how they circulate. Thinking as English students, memes are a common and simple form of multimodal writing: they only work through a combination of image and text, and they (generally) follow relatively strict formal requirements. Their rhetorical velocity depends on how effectively they speak to particular communities, and whether they motivate members of those communities to share.

For this lab, we will make our own memes, possibly related to our class, though you can take on different topics if you prefer. Remember that memes work within communities: if your topic is too far afield from what a typical English professor might understand, then I may not be able to evaluate whether your meme works or not—and you might need to provide some additional context.

For your field book, you should include your meme and use it to reflect on the questions such as:

  • What did the act of designing your meme teach you about how it makes its meaning?
  • How are internet memes similar to historical forms of “viral media” we discussed in class, and how are they unique to our historical moment?
  • In what ways do memes depend on specific technological platforms, and it what ways do they not? That is, how does contemporary technology drive the production and reception of memes? Can you imagine memes existing in a different technological milieu?
  • What is the future of memes? Is this a cultural form that will stick around, or is it solely of our moment? How do you think memes might change in the future?

Some Resources:

  1. For understanding the history of a particular meme, Know Your Meme
  2. For creating memes, Memegen or Meme Generator (and there are many, many more as many of you probably already know).
  3. Just a few places to browse memes: https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/ and https://www.reddit.com/r/AdviceAnimals/

Memes from Your Ancestors

and finally…