Hannah Barton | A Dialogical Analysis of Internet Memes

This project will study how internet memes acquire meaning and become expressive forms of vernacular communication. This will involve a consideration of the relationship between the socio-cultural and the technological factors that afford memetic communicative practices. Within any social setting, language usage warrants investigation as such coding is meaning-making, and thus speak to the frameworks of power that determines both political and private existence. Picture 22Internet memes therefore require attention. Transmitted online via repetition, replication and remix, memes are used to demonstrate ideas in quick and effective ways. They are folk productions that communicate meaning via identification with visually and contextually recognisable elements. As such, internet memes call on principles from a range of disciplines for exposition. They are also newly and tentatively defined. Therefore, it will be necessary to both speak to, and contribute towards an understanding of, this formal volatility. Thus, internet memes need to be provided with adequate terms of distinction; namely, an explanation of how the particularities of the internet (as a medium) provides a new and distinct environment for memetic discourse. Principally, this entails a consideration of the ways in which the internet acts as an amplifier, enabling memes to function as or as part of novel, digitally enabled communicative practices. Furthermore, the structures that determine and support dominant online demographics (i.e. those who in turn reinforces the vernacular - expressive, recognizable - language of and fostered by the internet) must also be investigated against the context of a broad history of communications. The internet, from its code to its culture, is not neutral, and nor is it detached from the ‘offline’ experience; therefore, concerns around cultural hegemonies, ontologies, and hermeneutics present therein must be accounted for.
Hannah graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Communication Art & Design in 2009. Based in London, she practices as an artist, writer and editor. Hannah currently edits biannual arts and culture publication Noon and is Project Co-ordinator of the Archives And Access digitisation project at Tate. www.hannahbarton.com