Thursday, 21 March 2013

Is it Pronounced ‘Meme’ or ‘Meme’?

Who doesn’t like a good meme? A meme is a form of remix culture (see previous post) and it rebels against mainstream media by spreading through citizen media. A meme is a type of popular culture expression.

Some examples of memes that I have come across are usually humorous because they take an original image that was not meant to be funny and slightly alter it to something that can be understood by the culture as a remix into something humorous. Check out some examples below:


Notice how these examples all involve an original image and they are remixed only with a caption added to them but suddenly the image has a completely new meaning?

Memes can also be in the form of videos, also usually humorous. One I personally enjoy is Ultimate Dog Tease where a human does a voice over to a dog’s mouth movements. I also enjoy LOL MEME gifs a remix that shows mini clips of scenes and change the background music to create a different experience. Know Your Meme is a great website to check out, it is filled with current and reoccurring memes.

My question is who makes money off of these memes? The answer is usually no one. It seems to me that copyright often neglects the underdogs. As citizens, we get a laugh out of these memes, but there is more to it than just that. If the meme is free for us to view, change, edit, and distribute than most likely the original owner to the image is not making money off of it.  In my opinion it is almost like memes are often forced “copygifts” as McKenzie Wark would refer to it. In result of a lack of copyright, citizens are allowed to take someone’s original image and change it and make it their own. On one hand this is great because it allows citizen media and remix culture to prosper, but on the other hand wouldn’t you want some credit for your work?

In The Meme Machine Susan Blackmore talks about how memes work and expresses that they are destined to be spread throughout the public (14).  Memes are created as a form of citizen media and remix culture, they are not created for an individual’s pleasure but for a culture to share and disperse amounts each other.

Many people think of memes as jokes, but there is much more to it than that, they are cultural representations of being apart of an online public sphere that allows citizens to participate in media and feel a sense of empowerment in a world where mainstream media dominates.

Arrivederci from another participating citizen of media,



  1. Hey Elyse,

    Great Post. I would agree that many people think of memes as a joke. However, this is until copyright issues such as the case with Grumpy Cat ( Recently, The owners of the cat filed for a trademark for the name "Grumpy Cat" as well as the cat’s likeness. They argue that people are infringing on Grumpy Cat. So how do people distinguish between just creating a meme and a case for copyright. I memes to a degree are overwhelming our culture and need to be taken less serious or issue such as the Grumpy cat will get out of hand.

  2. Ben,

    Great point. We all enjoy the memes of Grumpy Cat, yet it seems like nothing is actually free so why should the "parents" of Grumpy Cat allow this enjoyment to be free? However in this case creating memes as a form of citizen media, it is a way for citizens to participate in media without the cost of copyright. This concept of free media for citizen's to participate and owners getting money for what they created or distributed in the first place pulls me in opposite directions. I believe that copyright is a good thing for creators to be acknowledged for their work, but where does it end, now people want money for the funny expression on a cat's face, something that they personally did not create.

    Thanks for your comment!


    1. In that case, I think the cat is the one who should be compensated for their expressions. But in all honesty, I agree there needs to be a line drawn as what is considered to be a person's property versus something that simply belongs to the masses.

  3. Thanks for your comment. I agree that cat should get it! Buy seriously, copyright can be a good thing to protect people's work and in terms of acknowledging what one produces but there needs to be a cut off point or else creativity and innovation will suffer!


  4. I think that people create and distribute memes for recognition since there is no real monetary profit here. They want to be part of a trend, but what I think is problematic is when real people's images are used... not cats, fictional characters or celebrities but everyday average Joe's.