Internet Memes in Designing of New Meanings: Structural Transformations and Social Interpretations

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Valeriya VASILKOVA, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
Zinovyeva NADEZHDA, Saint Petersburg State University, Russia
In the report the dual nature of an Internet meme as a mechanism of creation and functioning of a cultural product is considered. On the one hand, the Internet meme is an element of the industry of culture (because of standardization of the images and the characters, absence of authorship, mass distribution and availability to wide audience thanks to the Internet). On the other hand, the creation of Internet memes includes elements of cultural creativity (exclusivity, non-trivial mix of images in a collage, innovative nature of semantic connotations). The analysis of Internet memes is particularly interesting for sociologists because it allows to see how the new understanding of social events is born and how these new meanings and valuations disperse on mass audience.

The report presents the results of an empirical study of structural transformation of Internet memes as the process of the emergence of new meanings. The structure of an Internet meme is considered as the iconic system, which includes «core», the elements of «periphery», «background» and also various proportions of these elements. Emergence of new meanings is treated as the result of various transformations of this iconic system (transformation of a core, transformation of a background, merge of cores, mutual strengthening of cores, complementarity of a cores and background, etc.)

The authors offer a sociological interpretation of the structural transformation of Internet memes. An analysis of the most popular memes shows how social event affects the structural transformation of Internet memes, and how new versions of memes change the attitude to events that took place.