Browse Exhibits (1 total)

Memes: Cultural Snapshots


The Internet has transformed everyday writing. No longer is everyday writing restricted to physical vehicles such as letters or papers. Through technology, digital writing is at the forefront—and even more ephemeral in the fast paced technological landscape. Out of this fast turnover, one medium has managed to survive long enough to become a cultural staple: memes. Memes, in a literal sense, can be defined as combining text and images in order to relay a message, however in a broader, more figurative sense, they can be described as cultural snapshots. Richard Dawkins coined the term in his 1976 book The Selfish Genre defining it as an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. This spread of memes creates a general understanding of them amongst us, thus giving them a communal sense.

Everyday writing is a facet of writing that includes works of a casual nature—meaning the purpose of such writing is not for professional means, but rather means of convenience. Everyday writing embodies the everyday, from grocery lists, annotated notes, jotted down details, etc., it is a style of writing that captures the moment of its creation. There are memes that reference cultural phenomena like elections, celebrities, societal issues, and more, giving people a glimpse of the time they were created in. Memes fit into this category in two ways. One of which is that they can be created by anyone. All they require is an image and some text. The second way is that they too capture the moment of their creation.

Memes change as fast as the world around us, and people are becoming quick to create new ones to address these changes. People even use them as a means of communication (i.e. sending a meme or a GIF as opposed to a standard text message). Perhaps the reason behind the longevity of memes is how relatable they are to the millennial generation. Memes are shared so much and through so many channels that tracing them back to their original source can be a daunting task—cementing them as forms of everyday writing. In most cases, the source of a piece of everyday writing is unknown to all except the composer, so in this sense, memes are able to continually exist in the space of our lives. 

, , , ,