Friday, November 14, 2014

Virtual Features and a New Genre

This week, I will be answering the following questions:
1. What are the dominant features of memetic and viral culture employed by your meme sample? Discuss 2 or 3 of these traits. 
2. To what extent do my memes fit into one of the categories from chapter 7 of Shifman's Memes in Digital Culture
3. If I was to create a new genre related to my meme, what would it be? Title and define the genre. Describe how this communicates certain beliefs or assumptions about religion.

My memes employ the dominant viral features of prestige and provoking “high-arousal” emotions. Prestige “relates to the users’ knowledge about the content’s source” (Shifman, 67-70).  In other words, the content or meaning of the meme is connected to a well-known or famous person, event, or issue. The widespread knowledge of the person, event, or issue makes the meme easily understandable upon first sight. In my meme sample, prestige comes into play in the form of well-known stories, characters, and quotes from the Bible. The material is so well-known that people who do not follow the Christian faith, atheists for example, are still aware of these tales. This may explain why the community on the Atheist Meme Base Facebook page is able to share and understand memes that focus on the Christian religion.

My memes also employ the viral feature of provoking “high-arousal” emotions. The comments on some of the memes posted on the community’s Facebook page demonstrate this with written dialogue as seen on this meme of the PhilosoraptorPeople tend to react explosively when their beliefs are scrutinized or made fun of. Some commenters may start off by simply giving reasons behind why they believe the meme is incorrect, but after further debate, discussions become heated with the offended party typically growing more furious and aggressive. The defensive party may also become more furious and aggressive, but they could still be expected to be less serious about the debate because they are not the ones being offended or having to defend their beliefs. 
Sidenote: Because this concept is hard to support given my current material and resources, I could create a better argument by showing the following memes to various people and then documenting their discourse and reactions.

This meme finds its prestige by referencing the rather ironic issue of free will governed by God. The Bible seems to acknowledge that God has control of your free will in Proverbs 16:9
How can someone have free will if their actions have already been determined?

This meme references the 5th Commandment of the 10 Commandments which states: "Thou shalt not kill." Exodus 20:13. The 10 Commandments is arguably one of the most well-known areas of the Bible and can be seen in varying forms in public institutions as well. This meme gains its spreadability through the prestige it receives from being tied to such a famous excerpt of the Bible.

This meme gains its prestige from the ever controversial issue of slavery as it is presented in the Bible. Though the Bible is intended to teach Christians how to become saved and enter Heaven, there are several passages that speak of slavery and even condone the business of slavery. Examples can be found in 1 Kings 9:20-9:21 and Luke 12:47.

 When it comes to my meme sample fitting one of the genres from chapter 7 of Shifman’s book, a few of my memes fit the Stock Character Macro genre, due to their use of the Advice God and the Philosoraptor. Stock Character Macros use image macros and build “on a set of stock characters that represent stereotypical behaviors” (Shifman, 112). Both the Advice God and the Philosoraptor are based on the advice animal macro and their stock characters are associated with the particular stereotypes of a contradictory or “troll-like” god and an inquisitive philosopher, respectively.

However, the sample as a whole does not fit any of the predesignated categories.If I was to make a new genre, particularly for religious memes, that fits my meme sample, I would name the genre “Incongruity” based on Shifman’s subcategory of humor as described in my previous blog. In the concept of incongruity, humor is created through the presentation of a contradiction, pun, or other illogicality. My genre would be defined by memes that use contradiction to produce a comedic effect. The incongruity could be visual or textual. This new genre would present religion, its flaws, and its contradictions as laughable. Ironically, the genre would make religion seem a little less serious and a little more needing of objectivity.

My research paper will be completed in the next couple weeks! Thanks for joining me in this religious, objective, eye-opening experience!

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