Memes and Truth

“Meme formats — from this week’s American Chopper dialectic model to the ‘Exploding Brain’, ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ and ‘Tag Yourself’ templates — are by their very nature iterative and quotable. That is how the meme functions, through reference to the original context and the memes that have gone before, coupled with creative remixing to speak to a particular audience or topic or moment. Each new instance of a meme is thereby automatically familiar and recognisable. The format carries a meta-message to the audience: “This is familiar, not weird.” And the audience is pre-prepared to know how to react to this: you like, you “haha” emoji, and you tag your friends in the comments.

The format acts as a kind of Trojan Horse, then, for sharing difficult feelings — because the format pre-primes the audience to respond in a hospitable mode. There isn’t that moment of feeling stuck about how to respond to your friend’s big emotional disclosure, because she hasn’t made the big statement quite directly, but through irony and cultural quotation — distanced through memes typically using stock photography (as Leigh Alexander notes) rather than anything as gauche as a picture of oneself. This enables you the viewer to sidestep the full intensity of it in your response, should you choose (but still, crucially, to respond). And also to DM your friend and ask, “Hey, are you alright?” and cut to the realtalk should you so choose, too.

So a space is created, to talk about being stressed and overwhelmed and unsure of the meaning of anything we do — a space which is, I believe, more open than it has been in the past. As the mod of UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens says, this “gets the conversation going, as I don’t think it would have even started without it.”

And this is how memes help people speak truths.”



A Game of Thrones Media Environment

“23/ What happens when your customer modeling and market segmentation has to dump (say) the Claritas PRIZM persona model for post-FB-scandal culture-war battlefield map? How does your marketing change?

24/ In HR, "culture" used to be anodyne conversations about scripting cosmetic gestures comprising mostly harmless signals. Now it is battle-planning in a weaponized environment of harassment and bias allegations, and endemic internal tribal conflict.

25/ The normalcy collapse has also hit outbound PR. We are no longer in boilerplate press release world where the worst case was your media messaging being ignored and the best case was an innocent viral meme.

26/ Hashtag wars, sponsor boycotts, people smashing coffee machines, kids eating detergent pods, and Mark Zuckerberg on a Contrition Tour are all routine event types now. A game of thrones media environment.”


Criticising Jordan Peterson (and Others)

“A point I’ve repeatedly returned to over the last few years is that we don’t face the world as detached thinkers, but as engaged moral selves. As such, we must regulate our emotional and structural relation to reality in its wholeness and particularity if we are to think about it clearly and effectively. This requires approaching thinking as something that is founded in virtues and well-ordered practices and societies, rather than merely in brain power. We need patience, self-control, forgiveness and forgiven-ness, graciousness, courage, trust, hope, faith to overcome fear and anxiety, humility, etc., etc. We also must recognize the ways in which our thinking is embedded in environments, structures, and practices, which can be dysfunctional and require closer self-regulation and structural reformation, if we are to function well within them. Thinking becomes a far more challenging activity, requiring deep engagement with and attention to problems in our hearts and our relations, mindful navigation of our institutions and media, and constructive and reconstructive engagement.

If our relationship to opposing ideological viewpoints is so charged with interpersonal and social tensions, we will find it almost impossible to think well about those issues. Rather than responsibly pursuing understanding, we will be seeking catharsis. ‘Responsibility’ denotes the possession of the capacity to respond

, rather than just instinctively react—a surprisingly rare virtue! Without it, we will always be searching in some measure for a way to vent our spleen or to drive the threatening viewpoint away from us, instead of engaging with it carefully, charitably, and attentively.”