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Thursday, October 11 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm

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Joseph Cameron Lindsey
As easily spreadable objects of digital culture, memes have a unique ability to spread quickly and widely across national borders. As memes evolve within the global media landscape they are often remixed, recombined, adapted, and translated even further for the particular cultural context in which they are deployed. Through this constant exchange, memes can take on so many layers of meaning and so many references that the original context becomes obscured or lost. Transnational memes, thus, become a signifier without a signified. This paper further considers transnational memes, their multi-nodal spread, their distinctly multinational content, and the effects this process of adaptation can have on cultures and communities. Through visual analysis of these memes, contextualizing them within various national cultures over time, and tracing how this context is slowly obscured, this paper argues that transnational memes can be used both to foster diversity and understanding as well as to disseminate false information or for more sinister purposes. Often, though, they can simply be ambivalent objects of culture amassing meanings, contexts, and signification as it is shared between people and places.

Ariadna Matamoros-Fernandez
“El Negro de Whatsapp” is a platform-specific meme particularly popular amongst Spanish and Latin-American Whatsapp users that involves the posting of a picture that looks legitimate in preview but when clicked on reveals a lurking image of a black man with disproportionate genitals. This Whatsapp meme is situated within broader ‘bait-and-switch’ internet pranks like rickrolling (Know your meme, Rickroll), which imply a post of something appearing to be one thing but which is really something else. This paper examines the racism enacted by the memetic appropriations of “El Negro de Whatsapp”. I argue that users’ appropriations of this meme – independently of their intent – and Whatsapp’s affordances enact “platformed racism” (Matamoros-Fernandez, 2017). Platformed racism is “a new form of racism derived from the culture of social media platforms ‒ their design, technical affordances, business models and policies ‒ and the specific cultures of use associated with them” (Matamoros-Fernandez, 2017, p. 930). I examine the uses of “El Negro de Whatsapp” in the specific context of Spain through an exploration of the appropriations of the meme that have circulated in Whatsapp groups I am a member of.

Sean Rutherford McEwan
Memes “act as the locus of memory”, says Gabriella Coleman of the peculiar relationship 4chan has to its own history, made necessary by the ephemeral nature of large amounts of its content (2009). Rather than having an on-site permanent archive as such, its collective history and memory is sublated into and through the circulation and production of memes. Taking this as a prompt, this paper makes the case for the (re)production, circulation, and referencing of memes as embodiment of a particular historical ontology: a mode of being constructed in relationship to, and through, its own past. Memes, in other words, are a new way of thinking about, and experiencing (digital) history: they contribute to, and are part of, new “infra-structures of feeling” (Coleman 2017). With this in mind, I use Benjamin’s reading of Klee’s Angelus Novus as a framing device to start to think about how memes encourage and embody certain modes of being-in-the-world. I do so in specific reference to 4chan and its privileging of a certain subject position along lines raced, classed and gendered, although possibilities for other forms and spaces are considered. On 4chan, the New Man of neofascism remakes the world memetically, in his own image.

Saskia Kowalchuk
In this paper, I have sought to introduce and outline the trend in Internet meme-making know as 'deep-frying' and explain its significance as a method of user critique within a naturalized medium. How do images that confuse and repel the casual viewer through profanity, enthusiastic emoji usage, over-saturation, repeated compression, bubbling/ warping, and excessive lens flaring effectively question the memetic paradigm? Firstly, by understanding memes as Hito Steryl's transgressive 'poor images' that circulate to produce communities of content creators and consumers that stand in opposition to the state-sponsored rich image making complex. Further, through the application of work by Rolande Barthes, Claude Shannon & Warren Weaver, Scott Contreras-Kotterbay & Łukasz Mirocha, and Rosa Menkman, I have produced a critical examination of the formal practices that elucidate this phenomenon, on the level of the linguistic & iconic message, noise level, and redundancy. Lastly, I propose an orientation of these works within a diverse corpus across various major social media as a networked art practice in keeping with the tenants of the New Aesthetic.

Thursday October 11, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Ballroom West