The Meme Taking Over Communication

Blog #7

Nothing defines our use of the internet as clearly as the concept of the meme (“pronounced meem”).

Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in the way people communicate, at least in the way they communicate online. The only way I can describe it is “communication by meme.” They often take the form of pictures, videos, or other media containing cultural information that, rather than mutating randomly, have been deliberately altered by individuals.

The more time people spend online and the more their online activity becomes a part of their lives, the more they build up shared context, the meaning of which can only be derived from exposure to similar online activities.

BLog 4 8The decontextualization of memes within the internet has allowed for the huge expansion of memes and memetic communication, along with the dramatic increase in social media use. Online communication has allowed for memes to nearly become a language in their own right! Memes become so recognizable to experienced net users that they can be used to express sentiments or ideas, without the need for explanatory text. This may not always be the case in more popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

What I have found fascinating is that the Internet is allowing for the buildup of a tremendous amount of shared context, of backstory that can be left out of conversations and replaced with nothing more than a meme image. Memes appear out of nowhere and within days it seems as though all of your friends are communicating in a completely foreign language … until you figure out the source of the meme, and then suddenly it all makes sense.

Notes from Danah Boyd…

Genes rely on their hosts for transmission, and memes are no exception: in creating the internet it turns out that we have developed the ultimate meme hothouse.

In danah boyd‘s terms, the internet is a “networked public” that has four features highly conducive to making and spreading memes:

  • Replicability. Digital objects are infinitely reproducible and exploitable across a range of platforms.

  • Searchability. Finished versions of memes as well as raw materials and templates are easily found.

  • Scalability. Digital objects are created for a particular audience but with the knowledge that they can spread to an unknowably large audience wherever the internet is available.

  • Persistence. Although individual digital objects may not last as long as analogue objects, they are infinitely transferable and storable in many locations.

Successful memes abound on every social network, often going viral to reach tens of millions of viewers in days as they are rapidly shared with an ever expanding network of friends. Collectively, memes generate tens of millions of impressions an hour. Every day, millions of people laugh at LOLcatsdog shaming, and music videos without music, while others mock injusticesupport marriage equality, poke fun at NSA surveillance, or call out racism.

We use memes not only for absurd humor but also for societal and political commentary. At this time in human history, every single thing that we think or do can be turned into a meme and is likely a meme already. Memes can be jokes about miniscule everyday observations or the endless woes of mental illness. Memes are cathartic and allow us to process information through the abstraction of tragedy and global events. Whatever our interests or needs, a meme exists for us.

Examples: Popular Meme Activity

Reaction Faces and Videos

The most common form of memetic communication is the use of reaction faces and reaction videos. There are hundreds of examples of both, sometimes associated with text, or just ideas.

Rage Comics

The use of individual rage faces as reaction faces is extremely widespread, and remain one of the most widely-recognized forms of memetic communication on the internet. Due to the diverse nature of rage comics, there are tons of possible examples with a variety of meanings. Rage faces are generally used to conclude or to react to stories or images, and rage comics, compilations of rage faces, are used to illustrate stories with well-recognized image.

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Create your Own

There are a number of ways to begin creating memes. You can use nearly any painting or word processing program, or, choose the quick and easy option and try one of the many free online tools.

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In the age of the internet, the ways in which we communicate with one another and share cultural information change every day and do so at alarming rates. We can speak with anyone anywhere at any time and relay information about the space and time we are situated in in moments or as it happens. This ability to virtually participate with billions of others in meme-making means that the sharing and exchanging of information is limitless. Memetics is an emerging discipline and as the way we communicate and share information continues to be ever-changing, this will be an area of study for decades to come.

The real question I have is what does this mean for the future of communication between people? Are we headed for a future where we do nothing but exchange images of memes to convey meaning intermingled with emojis and icons, and nobody actually exchanges words or complete sentences ? Is the use of memes and shared context for communication contributing to the “dumbing down” of average people?

More importantly, what impact will this have on books? You already see more and more contemporary references to things that might be funny to readers of the time appearing in books (which will, of course, mean nothing 5 years from now). Will books of the future be nothing more than a bunch of meme images pasted together like an old ransom note?

Connecting the Dots

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I think everyone can agree that writing and reading is one of life’s greatest lessons. We learn at a young age our alphabet, followed by learning to write words in cursive, and eventually learn to use correct punctuation in full sentences. Finally, we begin to sound out letters and words which develop our reading skills and open up our imaginations. Literacy becomes a passion and a pleasure. The benefits are endless!

In today’s society, expectations of literacy are still highly essential among the employment world as well as the options for independent living. People could allow computers, television, and other devices of technology to do all the work for them but it isn’t very practical. I consider the loss of knowledge decreases a person’s freedom and academic achievement. People need to distinguish how to communicate with their own independence. No matter where the digital era takes us, we are responsible for own progress.

But, what happens if your vision is taken away from you? How can you read and write without seeing? Well, the answer is: CONNECTING THE DOTS!

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Here’s how it works

braille-2Braille is a system of touch reading and writing for the blind in which raised dots represent the letters of the alphabet. Naturally, people who read braille carry both hands and fingers over the combination of dots in order to read the material. In 1829, Louis Braille published “The Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Song by Means of Dots for Use by the Blind.” Braille is produced in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, and Hebrew. The method for the blind has been developed within a six-dot-cell in a 3 X 2 configuration. The system identifies 63 different dot patterns and symbols. Each Braille cell stands for a letter, a number, a punctuation mark, or a contraction. The small dots are used to describe letters, while the larger dots are used to describe punctuation. Every dot cell is different from the next forming a managed coding. Anyone can learn braille from sources off the internet, videos, or even attend braille institutions or organizations specifically for the visually impaired.

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Many people can use audiobooks, and speech software to hear language or music but it isn’t very useful when trying to teach yourself fundamentals of sentence structure and grammar. To some, braille may only seem like small dots on tablet or surface, but those dots are learning tools that teach visually impaired individuals a number of different things.

braille-7One example is that many blind people love music, just like their sighted peers. When it comes to learning an instrument and reading music, this is possible for blind people to do by using braille. There’s music software available, but to the blind, there’s nothing like feeling the dots under your fingertips. Personally, I would think that reading the music would most likely help the blind retain it better.

braille-8In another instance, for students, braille can be extremely useful when revising for exams. There’s so many ways of creatively revising with braille such as making short revision notes, and making flashcards. It can be great for organization too as you can braille yourself a revision timetable to put up and it’s something that you can refer back to it easily.

Also, one of the important factors about learning to read braille is being able to identify products that have braille on them. The collective dots are commonly seen on community phones, bathroom doors or wall signs, airports, bus stops, and ATM Machines. Apart from books and other related documents, braille can be used for

  • Braille labels

  • Receipts or bills

  • Graphics

  • Personal notes

  • Academics and studying

  • Menus

  • Pharmaceutical packaging

  • Tactile maps

  • The list goes on…

braille 9.jpgLearning to read and write Braille can be extremely challenging and takes a lot of practice. It is said that Braille is like learning another language or a secret code that few people know. So in a way, people who understand Braille have a special skill. Not only do you have to comprehend the dot configurations but you must feel the dots with a sensitive touch to feel each dot within a cell. It can be quite tedious, but eventually when you get the hang of it, braille will be like any normal source of language. It’s crazy to think that the knowledge of a simple “dot or dots” can change the lives of the visually impaired. It offers them the gratification to write for themselves, read books, play games, and even pursue hobbies. Most importantly, the small dots benefit blind individuals to experience the joy of literacy without feeling defeated. In other words, the language system can build equality for the blind among other people without needing too much help. Although I don’t know how to read or write braille myself, I’m sure connecting the dots would be interesting to study.

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The Power of the Semicolon – Project Semicolon ;

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How should you define a semicolon? Is a semicolon just a semicolon?

First, lets explain what a semicolon is. A semicolon may be tricky in the writing world, but it is known as one of the most powerful marks in punctuation. They are conventionally used in-between independent clauses in order to separate each complete idea. The separation between clauses helps a reader to avoid confusion. A semicolon can also suggest that each clause be close in relationship or form a type of connection.

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In this instance, the student is separating the idea that her love for spaghetti is different from the opinion of her boyfriend. Both clauses are formed together to introduce a connection.

According to the Semicolon Project a semicolon is more than just a punctuation mark!! Project Semicolon is a faith-based movement “dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, mental health issues, and self-injury” (huffingtonpost). The Semicolon Project was founded in 2013 by Amy Bleuel who decided to create a non profit organization in order to give support to people who were fighting difficult demons. The support group encourages society to stay strong and overcome their battles by seeking help or reaching out to others. Bleuel turned the semicolon into a symbol of hope and love; and eventually, the movement grew into the art of a tattoo.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”


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Elitereaders
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This picture indicates the symbol of the Semicolon project. It illustrates the awareness that someone is in need of aid followed by someone lending a helping hand.

 Have you seen the Tattoo?

As the cause grew to spread awareness for those in need, the semicolon tattoo has become a huge popularity on  Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and other social media. Today, people all over the world are “tattooing the mark as a reminder of their struggle, victory, and survival” (upworthy). The tattoos can be located formally on the wrists, the feet, the neck, or the inner/outer part of the fingers. The tattoos originally started out being a simple punctuation mark but have developed into thousands of different designs. The location of the tattoo truly does not matter. The important factor is the meaning behind the tattoo and why someone has decided to show it (And no, it’s not just the mark of a really committed grammar nerd.) It is designed to express the importance of suicide prevention and to inspire. The tattoo is also a conversation starter for people who have the same tattoo or for other people who recognize the tattoo’s purpose. When the opportunity to talk has presented itself, people can get to know others from the semicolon topic and possibly build new friendships.

You can follow the Semicolon Project on the Facebook webpage or the original website to learn more about the organization and its members. The website allows users or guests to take the opportunity to get help, chat with others, take beneficial health courses, share your story, get involved, or even donate to those in need. It is a terrific way to join a wonderful movement!

My Final Thoughts on the Semicolon Project…

I chose the topic of the Semicolon because I myself was inspired by the Semicolon Project. I might not exactly have the tattoo (I have none for that matter) to spread the goal that the Semicolon Project is trying to express to the world. The group desires to provide reassurance, support, and most importantly spread hope into the many lives of people trying to cry out for help. The famed project is developed to restore chances and confidence for the people troubled at any time in their lives. Suicide is NOT the answer!

I will admit that I have known many friends including myself to have struggled with depression and anxiety. I find it very difficult to speak to others about my own inner demons. I feel like I can relate to people within this organization because it makes me feel like I am not the only one in desperate need to find joy. Over the past few years, I have grown to know a few people that support the movement and what they believe in. Some people have carried the tattoo and some have not, but the main goal of the famed project is to bury your troubles and find your happiness. I encourage the class to spread the word of the Semicolon Project and give advice to people who need the positivity. It can SAVE LIVES! At any age, young or old, no one deserves to be left in the dark alone.

Your Story is Not Over Yet…

References
https://www.elitereaders.com/gets-semicolon-tattoo-wrist-truth-behind-will-touch-hearts/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-sabatke/project-semicolon-more-than-just-a-tattoo_b_7836030.html

http://www.upworthy.com/have-you-seen-anyone-with-a-semicolon-tattoo-heres-what-its-about

http://people.com/celebrity/project-semicolon-empowers-people-who-suffer-from-depression/

http://epicbh.org/blog/project-semicolon/?gclid=Cj0KEQiAwrbEBRDqxqzMsrTGmogBEiQAeSE6ZSmj7a53Fjh2wj_opPDD2tIWxPaN-vE9RyORvbQvZZ8aAv4R8P8HAQ