Memes

In 1974, biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in his book The Selfish Gene (Gleick, & Rintel).  He defines a meme as a culturally influenced idea and/or behaviour; examples of a meme can be fashion, language, politics, religion, sports, etc (Davison, p. 121-122).  Memes can be compared to the human gene, in which these ideas and/or behaviours of culture can be replicated, mutated, and evolved (Gleick). They can also act like a virus, infecting others of the world with their ideas and/or behaviours and just as genes in Darwinian theory, some memes will survive, and infect more than other memes will (Gleick).

This being said, I believe it is important to note that memes exist online, and offline of the World Wide Web. Internet memes differ from the memes in which Dawkins describes; most Internet memes are used as a satire on ideas and/or behaviors of culture, and gain public outreach, and popularity through online transmission (Davison, p.122). These types of memes, Internet memes, are no longer limited by human transmission, and memory in which offline memes are (Davison, p. 122).  Also, online memes completely overcome space, and time; memes can be seen all around the world within a click of a button (Davison, p. 123).

Although, Internet memes enable the general public to participate Sarah Kendzior’s argues this participation is insignificant; in her article, The Power of the Meme, she states that “memes create the illusion of participation in a political system from which people feel increasingly alienated, a system run on wealth that is incomprehensible to a normal person.”  Kendzior is saying that there is no participation by the general public in the political system amongst this illusion.  As mentioned in her article, a large percentile of the population does not even have access to the Internet (which is essential to participating in online memes), but as well many are not educated technologically, and politically, therefore living outside of the online meme/participation in the political system (Kendzior).

With that being said I completely agree with Kendzior; those who even create the memes are oppressed by those in political, and economical power, despite having access to the Internet, and being educated (Kendzior).  Internet memes simply serve as a satire on culture (in this case politics), and serve their purpose of creating the illusion if participation; these memes are widely, and rapidly spread over social media, masking the larger issues at hand in politics .

Internet memes may not seem important, but offline memes are.  In Dan Dennett’s Ted Talk Dangerous Memes (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes#t-60455) he discusses memes, and how toxic memes can completely wipe out entire cultures, languages, traditions, and practices.  An example a toxic meme (which he mentions in his talk) is the same meme that inspired Osama bin Laden ideas, and behaviours (Dennett). Memes like these need to be of our concern, as they cause conflict, oppression, violence, and discrimination.

Although, Internet memes do not hold much cultural value they could hold more. As stated by Patrick Davison, memes are a part of the unrestricted web; memes allow the general public to have a voice (Davison, p. 120). This unrestricted web also allows these voices to be protected from regulation, and punishment by allowing the author to remain anonymous (Davison, p. 132). With this said, the general public have been provided an outlet to speak but have rather used it for entertainment perpetuating Sarah Kendzior’s illusion of participation.  If used properly, toxic ideas can be eliminated, and those of equality and peace could flourish.

 

 

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Participatory Culture

In regards to my own modes of participation one quote from the Schafer (p. 38) reading perfectly sums it up: “…the statistics on the use of Internet and social media do not indicate a large number of users being actively involved in revolutionary upheaval but rather e-mailing, using search engines, watching videos, shopping online, updating their profile on social networking sites and interacting with peers.”  Although I use the Internet/World Wide Web (WWW) for school, and work, there is a lot of abuse, and a huge lack of meaningful contribution, communication, and collaboration.  As a child I remember my use being very limited, but as technology rapidly developed my use continued to grow as well. Today, now with portable devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops), and Wi-Fi readily available everywhere, I find myself connected all the time.  I am involved in multiple digital practices (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, etc.) but for entertainment, leisure, and often a distraction leading to procrastination (mostly when doing homework during the school year).

Although, I believe there are a lot of pros in use of the Internet, and World Wide Web there are a lot more cons. Technology has made many individuals incapable of disconnecting, unplugging themselves from the digital world for long periods of time; I am guilty myself while on vacation going on my phone, or on my computer to check social media applications for updates.  There has also been many instances where I have been out with my friends, and they pull out their phones to browse these applications applications as well; use of these applications is ruining one’s ability to function, and socialize face-to-face without being connected at the same time.

I also believe this type of participation removes the personal touch.  For example, this is my first online course, but I am unsure about how I feel.  Yes, I like the convenience of being able to do my work on my own time, from the comfort of my bed, and using social media applications, but I still feel the need for face-to-face interaction.  I personally learn better in a classroom, hearing the professor speak, with a slideshow presentation, notes, and discussion/question time with peers.  Those interactions I find more valuable, and more likely to remember than something that is occur over the Internet/WWW.

On the other hand though the participation in these applications can be beneficial; the Internet/WWW makes the world a smaller place by diminishing access barriers, and allows the small voices to be heard along with the big voices. For example, recently in the news the hashtag #bringbackourgirls has been trending on Facebook, and Twitter; use of this hashtag along with every day people has been used by big names, such as First Lady Michelle Obama.  This hashtag is being used in support of finding the missing school girls that were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria.  Although, I am personally on the fence about how a simple hashtag on social media applications can bring back these school girls this is a good example of meaningful contribution, communication, and collaboration; social media spread can like wildfire, and in this case has, putting pressure on the hierarchy (government) to do something about the issue at hand with the power they hold.

In conclusion, I believe the obsession needs to stop, and their needs to be more meaningful use. Sadly though as stated in the Schafer article (p. 38) “social media users are…another audience for advertising, but also a crowd of helping hands in distributing the commercial messages”; therefore society’s meaningless use is feeding/benefiting these technologies  by providing more outlets for advertisements, and spreading them, and the hierarchy does not necessarily need their meaningful use.  Technology dictates society, and by society using it, it continues this vicious circle.

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So the rumour is true…

…you can blog, and tweet for marks!

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Hi COMM 2F00,

My name is Brittany Thomas-Clapp (yes, it’s a mouthful, and yes, I am convinced my parents were trying to torture me as a child).  I am heading into my 4th year of Concurrent Education (Intermediate/Senior) this Fall; my major is Visual Arts, and my second teachable is General Science.  After reading the course description, and hearing good things from my peers, I decided this course was well-suited for my studies.  With today’s rapid advancements in technology, media is available through many outlets; in my pursuit of being a teacher I believe it is essential for myself to be literate within these environments.  By broadening my abilities, I will be able apply them to teaching students who are growing up in the Digital Era.

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