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.
~ “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.