The Potential of Memes (New Literacies Sampler CH 9)

I was particularly struck this week by “Chapter 9: Online Memes, Affinities, and Cultural Production” in A New Literacies Sampler. A part of this interest is because I personally enjoy memes and meme-making, and perhaps even more important is the fact that I use memes in my own classroom. My iLearn is riddled with them, and this Wednesday (2/17/16)) I am going to be doing an audience analysis/rhetorical awareness lesson by using memes.

I want to make the distinction that when I think of memes, I think of static images with text imposed on them. Currently, I believe this to be the norm when defining memes, which is why the reference of Badger, Badger and Numa Numa seemed odd to me in the chapter. I like the idea of broadening meme definition to small snippets of video, jingles, and the like, although I wonder if it would obscure current discussion surrounding memes in the classroom.

In this chapter, Lankshear and Knobel discuss how memes become successful, and how that success is relevant in regards to societal implications and in demonstrating context-specific goals to students. One point that I particularly liked was that a meme itself is often static in nature – even recreations of or responses to that meme have context specific rules (generally driven by a particular discourse community) that provide the particular meme with “edges.” What becomes more interesting, as Lankshear and Knobel point out, is how the meme is used, why it is used (societally), and to an extent, when it is used. The authors tie concepts of society-specific meme usage to James Gee’s “affinity space” concept (which describes learning that happens in informal spaces), essentially showing that context and audience always frame memes, and are discussable academically.

Lankshear and Knobel go on to note that memes are often inherently intertextual, which is in large part why I find them worthwhile to use in a classroom setting. I believe that memes are a very accessible way into seeing larger connections between texts and across mediums for my students. Memes also hold the benefit of being used by students in their personal lives, and so their academic use in the classroom provides a way for students to begin blurring the “edges” of academia and personal media – a notion that I am personally fond of from Freire’s concept of “reading the world.”


2 comments on “The Potential of Memes (New Literacies Sampler CH 9)

  1. Memes are relatable, humorous, and sometimes require some pretty exceptional thought. I wonder how you could use memes in the classroom outside of providing context or generating interest. How would you create an entire writing assignment based on memes?

  2. Pingback: Fluid Definitions of Identity and Literacy | Teaching Writing in a Digital Age

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