Excerpt: Shifman’s Memes in a Digital World: Reconciling with a Conceptual Troublemaker

By | March 26, 2013

An article by Limor Shifman in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Volume 18, Issue 3, pages 362–377, April 2013. Shifman works in the Department of Communication and Journalism, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in Israel.

Shiftman’s paper is a bit dense around defining the scope of “what is a meme” (in particular, the difference between Dawkins’ original intent for the term versus the popular “internet joke” format such as the “Leave Britney Alone” video).

From the abstract:

This paper re-examines the concept of “meme” in the context of digital culture. Defined as cultural units that spread from person to person, memes were debated long before the digital era. Yet the Internet turned the spread of memes into a highly visible practice, and the term has become an integral part of the netizen vernacular. After evaluating the promises and pitfalls of memes for understanding digital culture, I address the problem of defining memes by charting a communication-oriented typology of 3 memetic dimensions: content, form, and stance. To illustrate the utility of the typology, I apply it to analyze the video meme “Leave Britney Alone.” Finally, I chart possible paths for further meme-oriented analysis of digital content.

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