Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

On the language of Internet Memes
by De la Rosa-Carrillo, Ernesto Leon, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2015, 255; 3703692
Abstract (Summary)

Internet Memes transverse and sometimes transcend cyberspace on the back of impossibly cute LOLcats speaking mangled English and the snarky remarks of Image Macro characters always on the lookout for someone to undermine. No longer the abstract notion of a cultural gene that Dawkins (2006) introduced in the late 1970s, memes have now become synonymous with a particular brand of vernacular language that internet users engage by posting, sharing and remixing digital content as they communicate jokes, emotions and opinions.

For the purpose of this research the language of Internet Memes is understood as visual, succinct and capable of inviting active engagement by users who encounter digital content online that exhibits said characteristics. Internet Memes were explored through an Arts-Based Educational Research framework by first identifying the conventions that shape them and then interrogating these conventions during two distinct research phases. In the first phase the researcher, as a doctoral student in art and visual culture education, engaged class readings and assignments by generating digital content that not only responded to the academic topics at hand but did so through forms associated with Internet Memes like Image Macros and Animated GIFs. In the second phase the researcher became a meme literacy facilitator as learners in three different age-groups were led in the reading, writing and remixing of memes during a month-long summer art camp where they were also exposed to other art-making processes such as illustration, acting and sculpture. Each group of learners engaged age-appropriate meme types: 1) the youngest group, 6 and 7 year-olds, wrote Emoji Stories and Separated at Birth memes; 2) the middle group, 8-10 year-olds, worked with Image Macros and Perception memes, 3) while the oldest group, 11-13 year-olds, generated Image Macros and Animated GIFs.

The digital content emerging from both research phases was collected as data and analyzed through a hybrid of Memetics, Actor-Network Theory, Object Oriented Ontology, Remix Theory and Glitch Studies as the researcher shifted shapes yet again and became a Research Jockey sampling freely from each field of study. A case is made for Internet Memes to be understood as an actor-network where meme collectives, individual cybernauts, software and source material are all actants interrelating and making each other enact collective agencies through shared authorships. Additionally specific educational contexts are identified where the language of Internet Memes can serve to incorporate technology, storytelling, visual thinking and remix practices into art and visual culture education.

Finally, the document reporting on the research expands on the hermeneutics of Internet Memes and the phenomenological experiences they elicit that are otherwise absent from traditional scholarly prose. Chapter by chapter the dissertation was crafted as a journey from the academic to the whimsical, from the lecture hall to the image board (where Internet Memes were born), from the written word to the remixed image as a visual language that is equal parts form and content that emerges and culminates in a concluding chapter composed almost entirely of popular Internet Meme types.

An online component can be found at http://memeducation.org/

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Garber, Elizabeth J.
Commitee: Betts, David, Sharma, Manisha
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Art History and Education
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 76/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Art education, Middle School education, Elementary education, Web Studies
Keywords: Actor-networks, Arts-based educational research, Arts-based research, Internet memes, New literacies, Remix
Publication Number: 3703692
ISBN: 978-1-321-75634-0
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