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What is a meme and what is an Internet meme? Discuss.

Last posted Nov 20, 2009 at 05:11PM EST. Added Nov 20, 2009 at 03:52PM EST
7 posts from 3 users

Once again, we have a lot of disagreement going on about what makes an Internet Meme, and people requesting a definition. Here’s my view. Feel free to ask questions, or correct me where you think I’m wrong.

What is a meme?

A meme is any relatively popular idea that spreads primarily from one person to another in what appears to be a contagious fashion. A strong meme is a meme that has a strong impact and influence on the cultural group in which it is found.

Examples include:
Religions, clothing styles, musical genres, colloquialisms, idioms, other parts of speech, philosophies, popular scientific hypotheses, architectural trends, and much, much more.

Memetics is, at its simplest, an approach to cultural analysis that treats cultural information as though it acts in much the same way as biological information, or DNA. All of the genes present in the DNA make up the physical aspects of a person, just as all of the memes present in a cultural group, make up that culture.

What is an Internet meme?

An Internet meme is a type of meme which is more relevant in the context of Internet communities and their cultures than it is in any other media.

Examples include:
Advice Dog, All Your Base Are Belong to Us, Demotivational Posters, and much more.

<Note: Kanye West’s VMA interruption is a meme that had plenty of mainstream exposure. But the “Imma Let You Finish” recontextualizations happened online, and have more relevence to Internet culture than they do elsewhere.

This is an Internet Meme database and not a database of ALL memes. Internet culture is our primary focus.

Of course, the internet plays a role in many people’s every day lives, but there are also memes that get around without any help from the Internet.

We’re interested in the ideas that could only have been spread and turned into what thy are because of the Internet.

If it was a popular meme in real life (like washing your hands) and then people still continued to use it online, that doesn’t make it an Internet meme. It’s an old real-life meme that we carried with us to the Internet.

i think a key difference between the two (meme vs. internet meme) is the EZ documentability of the latter. Whether its origin lies in real life or the internets, all meme entries catalogued in KYMdb are based on some sort of digital traces/artifacts, meaning videos, images, thread links, etc. Our tendency to focus towards internet-based memes might have something to do with the fact that “when you look it up, it’s all there.”

of course, this isn’t the case with lots of “IRL” memes, esp. with old-skool ideas/customs that would require LARGER-scale efforts in research, analysis, several trips to the library. Do we have the resources & manpower to pull off something like this? i want to say “not yet.” but even if we could document IRL memes with the same ease, i don’t think i would go too crazy with em. Ideas there are PLENTY of in this world, some interesting, some not. simple as that, at least in my opinion.

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