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Sociology of Memes

Last posted Oct 08, 2009 at 11:45PM EDT. Added Oct 06, 2009 at 11:15AM EDT
10 posts from 7 users

I am currently writing a paper on memes as an object with cultural significance.

What is it that creates this meaning within the viewers of memes?
Why do some people “not get” memes?
Is there a typical demographic for meme viewers?
Any random thoughts about memes or meme-related culture that you wish to share?

(Note, you may be quoted anonymously in my paper unless you specify that this is against your wishes.)

“Meme viewers,” are probably the people who spend their time on the internet. A casual fan wouldn’t generally know them, except for maybe fail, “I herd u liek mudkipz,” and few more.
Some people may not “get” memes, per say, because they don’t understand where the reference came from, or how it may be used, so it’s unfunny and awkward to them. Memes are just really big inside jokes from the internet.

“If you like mudkips, the cake is a lie, and all your ships are belong to us, then the world maybe a series of tubes.” Nevermind don’t write that, I’m just a needy child.

Memes by definition is a “cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means”. Meaning within memes is created by one person and then passed on to others through public opinion.

Memes can be considered like inside jokes; sometimes it is difficult to understand memes without background information. This is why we have Know Your Meme. :D

There is no specific meme demographic toward a specific audience. Usually it is just anyone with internet access are meme viewers. However more specifically, memes in different languages are more popular in the native countries (language barrier). There are some instances where memes have been translated and reinterpreted across countries (such as the English and Japanese “meme exchange” that has been going on lately).


That is so crazy, I was doing the same thing having the same problem. Many of my peers (Eg the professor)suggest that memes don’t even exist and that they are just me “misinterpreting Fads” my main problem is finding a Credible article on memes.

I’m not an academic but here are my 2 cents off-hand:

- Scope / Definition:
If I were you I would try to set some scope around how you are defining “meme” also.
As mentioned here memes are largely inside jokes but as you know this activity isn’t restricted to the internet. However, what most folks refer to as “memes” today are “internet memes”.
The reason is that the internet enables the profuse replication of inside jokes and the concept of a “meme” itself has seen a rise in popularity/(self-perpetuating) public awareness as a result.
A paper could be (or should be) written alone on HOW the internet enables meme replication.

- Answers to your questions:
1) What causes any other piece of art to resonate with an individual – Whether a popular song, painting, piece of advertising, a funny joke, absurd concept, etc.?
~ Intrinsic factors such as personal life experience, sociocultural influences, socioeconomic status, recollected information, and general world-view are contributing factors.
~ External “challenging factors” such as a break in the status quo or mental/cultural challenge to personal worldview – ex. shock-factor, inspiration, the absurd, etc.
~ Timing is a consideration. For instance, is this a “hot” / new item fresh on the public conscious, is it nostalgic or has it been “unearthed”, “resurrected”, or rediscovered in a fresh way?
~ Psychological factors such as the mechanisms that manage “hooks”, “earworms” and the like – ex. mental mechanism that captures or processes a repeated phrase or tune in a catchy jingle.
Innate characteristics fall into this category also – ex. sex, violence. “Sense of belonging” / acceptance would fall here also – ex. if a meme is accepted by a community, such as 4chan, an individual might feel a sense of success in achieving this status and thus an acceptance / belonging to a Community.

2) People “don’t get” means if:
~ they don’t have the background
~ they simply don’t understand
~ the meme doesn’t resonate
These are “neutral” responses, as opposed to an individual negatively responding to a meme, where they understand it but choose to “reject it”, which is a different issue.
I would caution to keep the two separate.

3) Demographics:
~ “Micro-demographics” – There are micro-demographics for any respective meme. The demographics would match the contributing factors listed above in my first answer.
~ "Macro-demographics – Just guessing, but I would imagine the macro-demographic bulk would closely follow the demographics of world-wide internet users today with a swelling of Millenials. This is because of the self-perpetuating concept of an “internet meme” and “viral” concepts are becoming more popular / self-aware. So more internet users are catching-on and participating. This is especially true of Millenials who have been brought up on the internet and, as they mature, are using the “meme” concept as a means of expression and understanding the world. I have personally seen a huge growth in both the meme concept and memes themselves just within the past decade. The millenial generational issue is the main accounting for this, in my mind.

4) Other thoughts:
There is a certain individual “threshold” that is to be reached for a meme to be replicated by an individual.
The amount of an individual’s internal interest defines the degree to which it is replicated (directly proportional to the individual effort to do).

Hope this helps. Good luck on the paper! :)
There aren’t many out there on this specific subject. I’m not sure if this is just for a report or Ph.D. but I personally would love to see more doctoral theses on it. I will say I have no doubt that more will surface as the “internet meme” concept increases in popularity. The timing is ripe.

I´m currently doing a research about memes for Doctorate in cultural studies/media studies. I have some papers published about it, but i´m from Brazil so they are all in portuguese.
But anyway I would love to change some “academic” ideas about memes (if you don´t mind my bad anglish, lol).
My focus is on the intertextuality play, and i use the concept of interpretative communities to deal with the fact that some people don´t get it. I´m using cultural studies about irony and parody too, they are very useful. Most of the academic references i´m using are from english, canadian or american scholars, you´ll find plenty of matertial about it.
Send me a direct message and we can trade contacts.

Dude, I would help, but I’m an absolute idiot. What I can do is edit, oooh boy, am I a destroyer of bad grammar and spelling. But cool stuff man. Since we’re the community observe how we act like monkeys by throwing poop at each other.


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