MAKING MEANING OUT OF MEME-MAKING:

The Politics of Online Image Circulation

MEMEPOL explores how memes contribute to the production of commonsense understandings of complex global issues by providing a simplified explanation that can be quickly understood by a viewer. It is a transdisciplinary postdoctoral project focusing on the visual world politics of the internet and social media using an innovative art-based collage methodology.

 

In the age of social media, memes and meme-like images are indicative of logics that underpin the common-sense ways in which world politics is understood. Furthermore, they have become an intrinsic part of strategic communication and propaganda wars. From social media use by the Israeli defense forces to the Russian state’s ban on images satirizing Putin, governments, politicians, activists, and institutions use memes, and their politics are resisted and challenged by memes, that ridicule through humor. Yet, memes have received only minimal attention from scholars of world politics.

 

The significance of the project is two-fold. Academically, it will provide further critical insight into how the visual constructs the political and how global power relations are maintained, reproduced and/or disrupted on everyday level through visual social media use that utilizes humor. Thus, it will produce new empirically grounded knowledge on the relationship of everyday social media use and the shifting dynamics of global power relations. MEMEPOL advances the use of creative artistic methods in the study of global politics and experiments with reporting research results in artistic and visual forms. Consequently, it will contribute socially to visual political literacy and a better awareness of the power of visuality to shape what is taken as common-sense in politics.

 

Persons involved:

Saara Särmä

Postdoctoral researcher

Tampere University

saara.sarma [at] tuni.fi     

 

Funding: Academy of Finland

Project duration: 2019-2022

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