Hail Hydra is the most refreshing thing to happen to memes in years

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by Keidra Chaney

Memes aren’t what they used to be. What was once shared and participatory, now seems to be increasingly top down and audience driven. Look at Grumpy Cat: meme turned brand. Even the doge meme, as charming as it was, seemed to be angling towards something more commercial in nature. It’s expected at this point that a meme becomes something you’ll see at a SXSW booth inevitable. It’s been such a sad state of affairs for good, bottom-up egalitarian pop culture memes that TLF decided to skip our yearly recap of favorite memes in 2013.

Enter the Hail Hydra meme. First off, the best thing about the “Hail Hydra” is meme is how seemingly random it is. Inspired by a brief scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where a secondary characters leans over and whispers “Hail Hydra” in evil solidarity. It’s not a throwaway scene, but not an iconic one either. And yet, the evening after I saw the film, I saw this on Twitter:

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then this on Facebook:

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then this on G+:

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In Limor Shifman’s book, Memes in Digital Culture (reviewed here) Shifman presents the idea of the three factors that facilitate the spread of viral and memetic content: 1.) simplicity, 2.) humor and 3.) access to tools of participation. Its been very long time since I’ve seen a meme, a simple, humorous, non-commercial meme, grow so quickly and on so many platforms in real time. Probably the last time it happened was the “Binders Full of Women meme of 2012. It actually made me nostalgic, if you will, for a simpler time on the Internet, where memes played more of a role of common language or in-joke within a community than potential brand platform. Memes were born, circulated widely and quickly, and died before overstaying their welcome. It was… refreshing to see something so clever, participatory and (seemingly) random happen online from fans of the movie just having fun.

As online culture become more and more audience-centric, organized, and top-down, I wonder if moments like this are now the exception rather than the rule. I admit, I even wondered if the meme itself was orchestrated by Paramount or Marvel as some kind of viral marketing push, because that’s where we are at now. I don’t think it is, though I would not at all be surprised if it isn’t. Either way, the fact that I don’t know begs the question how much room is left for participatory fan culture in a hyper-branded online world.

Television Without Pity’s Vanishing History – and Why We Should Care

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by Keidra Chaney

20140329-150524.jpg This week, it was announced that television recap website Television Without Pity will be shuttered by parent company NBC/Universal on April 4. There was an immediate cry of dismay from both current and lapsed fans of the site, including myself. (Lifestyle website Daily Candy will also be going dark at the same time, after 14 years.)

TWoP’s Legacy
The influence of Television Without Pity is notable as a both a pop culture website and a catalyst and birthplace for many of pop culture fandom norms we see in social media and on blogs. The website launched the careers of numerous careers of pop culture critics, most notably NPR’s Linda Holmes. It could be argued that the long-form TV episode recap online writing format was popularized, if not originated, by Television Without Pity, all the way back to its Dawson’s Wrap/Mighty Big TV days in the late 90′s. For many TWoP fans – and detractors – the true legacy of the website is its forums. They were the birthplace of numerous online fan communities and one of the first online spaces where a fandom’s collective voice was heard – and sometimes engaged – by a TV showrunner. Aaron Sorkin’s well-documented passive-aggressive relationship with social technology and online culture was born in his relationship with West Wing fans on TWoP, so you could say it indirectly inspired his Oscar-winning film The Social Network. The forums were the birthplace of at least one fan con – for the at-one-time mega popular The Amazing Race, and is arguably the starting point for a whole host of online fandom references and in-jokes.

The website’s 2007 purchase by Bravo was both a win and a great loss for fandom – a sign that online fandom and pop culture writing was influential and valuable enough to attract the funding of a major media company, but also a large step towards the now-standard fan/brand synergy that has slowly eroded many grassroots fan communities.

Saying goodbye to more than a website
So here we are, in 2014, saying goodbye to TWoP (though, yes, many of us did years ago, and maybe not on the best of terms) but the biggest goodbye, is to what TWoP represents, or did represent at one point: pre-social media online fandom, a time where one’s online fandom could exist in comfortable anonymity, before “social TV” became a career focus, before armchair media criticism became a socially acceptable hobby in the same way fantasy football is.

With the shuttering of the website, we lose a searchable piece of online fandom’s multifaceted history. This history may be written one day, but much of what is written and shared will be from the perspective of the (post-2007) website, and more specifically from the perspective of NBC/Universal, rather than from the fandom activity that it inspired. We can already see it in “formal” online documents such as Wikipedia; TWoP’s entry has a fleeting reference of the website’s 2007 life (including the older fan forums) and little mention of its former writers/creators.

There are two issues at play here: Firstly, as online fandom becomes a business model, we see more and more of its formal history being written and controlled by media owners, which risks having the major players in fandom be written out. Secondly, we’re well beyond the point in the history of online culture where archiving of shuttered and discontinued online properties (especially message boards and blog content) should be a concern for creators and owners. Many influential pre-social media online entities are going dark, and there’s been little discussion of where this information may be archived where it may be of use to the public. (Or if it should be archived, or who should have the responsibility/access to this content)

We’re in the age where content is supposedly king, and provides the fuel that runs the engine of media and tech companies, but what of the history and legacy of this content. It’s not too early to start having these conversations, and to think about how we as professional and fan creators can insure that we maintain at the very least some level of access to the online history we’ve helped to create.

“Bossy” and “Leader” are not interchangable

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By Sophia Madana

I’m not sure if this resonates with you, but at times I feel like this viral internet culture of ours has our fingertips going so fast that we don’t stop to think about what we’re sharing because we’re too concerned with being the first to share it. I say this now because I recently stumbled onto #BanBossy.

By now you’ve surely heard the buzz over Sheryl Sandberg’s latest movement. And you’ve surely seen the video jam-packed with high profile celebs touting the message.

The concept is great, and I couldn’t agree more. We need more women leaders in the world, more of us to stand up for ourselves and not be afraid to be called names. We need girls to have confidence and strength at a young age to carry a new generation, and we need equal opportunities in the classroom.

#BanBossy came from Sandberg’s anecdotes in her book and TED talk, mentioning that she was called “bossy” as a child. Instead of feeling ashamed by the label, she wished that someone had told her that she had good “leadership skills.” The movement focuses on this one sound bite, and the whole idea is so catchy that it’s hard not to jump on board. The celebrity video has gone viral and has been viewed over one million times on YouTube in the first two days of its launch.

After seeing this video retweeted and shared on my social media feeds 20 something times before noon, I felt the need for a Zack Morris-style “Timeout!”

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Let’s stop and think about this for a second before we go bananas over #banbossy.

When this first came up, the word “bossy” left a terribly sour taste in my mouth, and I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. Then I thought back to my childhood and how I used the word. I remembered the way I felt when I interacted with girls who I had described as bossy. I felt pressured, used, afraid, like I had no say in the task at hand. I felt that this person who I called bossy was dictating rules to me, not for the good of the order, but because if she didn’t get things her way she would throw a tantrum and cause a scene. All the bossy girl cared about was being the star of the show, no matter whose hands she had to step on to get there.

I thought about the other children I played with in my neighborhood who were all boys. We hardly played at my house because all my toys were too girly for them so we played with Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe action figures (no complaints here!) at their houses. But that came with the home field advantage stipulation: their house, their rules. I never got to play with Michelangelo–who was by far the best Turtle–because the boys would always get dibs on their favorite toys. I remember calling them bossy … a lot.

Then I thought about the girls who raised their hands in class, the girls who participated in discussions, the girls who got all the stickers on their spelling tests. I don’t think I ever would have called those girls bossy. They were the ones I went to for help with my homework. They were the ones who led the group projects, delegating tasks, throwing out ideas, collaborating and trying to include others and keep them interested.

Then I thought about working with boys in groups. Somehow, I mostly found myself stuck being the only girl. I’ll never forget when I was in second grade we were randomly split into groups of four. I was a “four” and the “fours” that surrounded me were all boys. I looked to my left at the boy picking his nose. I looked to my right at the boy blowing bubbles with his own spit and then slurping them back up into his mouth. I looked to the boy directly in front of me who was singing, taking his own liberties to the song, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” substituting words in to describe his flatulence, as the others giggled. I sighed to myself and thought, “I’m this group’s only hope.” Our task was to describe several ways in which we can recycle every day. I grabbed the pencil and paper and took over as the leader, and not one of those duds said a word about it. They were probably too grateful for someone’s guidance, or perhaps too plain stupid to even think about calling me “bossy.”

So my point is that the words “bossy” and “leader” don’t describe the same person. They are not interchangeable and therefore we can’t rename bossy girls as leaders because they would probably make poor ones. I would never want to work for someone who dictated orders to me, made me feel small, and came out on top at my expense. I certainly don’t think that we should be embracing these traits in a movement caused by Sheryl Sandberg and other celebrities because it condones behavior in young girls (and boys) that allows them to treat others poorly and with no respect. Yes, I agree there is a confidence gap in boys and girls, and there is definitely room for improvement in giving girls the floor to speak and be heard, but “bossiness” has very little to do with that.

So instead, let’s work to identify bossy behavior in young girls and show them the importance of including others, collaborating, building others up, rather than not stomping them down. Let’s actually make leaders out of kids instead of simply relabeling them and moving them along the conveyor belt. Let’s take bossiness down once and for all.

Sorry. Just had to get that off my chest.

OK, “Time in!” Back to your regularly scheduled, uninterrupted viral internet life!

I Read A Book: The Korean Popular Culture Reader

Korean Popular Culture Reader

By Raizel Liebler

Korean Popular Culture ReaderKyung Hyun Kim & Youngmin Choe’s edited collection of academic essays, The Korean Popular Culture Reader is an important entry into popular culture and Asian cultural criticism. The cultural relevance of this collection is expected, but what is not expected is how fascinating and well-written all of the essays are.

Generally, in essay collections like this, I end up reading the chapters that are of most interest to me and browse the rest. But here, there were interesting tidbits within each essay, helping to demonstrate both the importance of the specific subject and contextualizing it within a broader culture. Some of the surprising and interesting things I learned about included:

– the construction of the meaning of love within Korean culture — including the word(s) for love;

– how wealthy Koreans interest in luxury high-rise living plus living at home with parents as adults helped to promote computer cafes where 20/30somethings play videogames and flirt;

– the ways that athletes of Korean descent/origin are both accepted and “othered” within sports

Yes, I started reading this book for the first (!?) academic essay on Dramabeans, the Korean drama and fandom site. I think it is important to properly memorialize and capture what this and other sites do, considering when they are gone — like the original version of Television Without Pity and others. The idea that there is now a dissertation on this makes me hopeful for the future of pop culture and Korean culture studies. The Girls’ Generation essay was good, but that wasn’t unexpected. And there are little treats for 2ne1 fans, such as the cover featuring four images of CL and Minzy performing.

My only critique is an odd one — in the chapter about food, some of the transliterations were likely accurate, but threw me off, considering they were not the ones that English readers expect (example: bi-bim-bop).

Overview: Come for the essays you are most interested in, stay for the entire book. Korean popular culture studies will take its place among other subsets of pop culture studies and this book is a great start to help the academic ball rolling.

TLF Does Radio: Diversity in Video Games on the Kojo Nnamdi Show

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This post is going to be something a little different – you see, usually I type things into the internet ether because the people around me aren’t inclined to listen to me rant out loud (or because I’ve already rambled on about it incessantly and everyone is sick of listening). But last week, some very nice people from WAMU 88.5 in Washington D.C. decided they wanted to listen.

Along with Mythic designer Kate Flack, CNN’s Larry Frum, and GamesIndustry’s Mike Williams, I was asked to participate in a call-in discussionabout the current state and future of diversity in videogames.

The show was a lot of fun, and while we didn’t have nearly enough time to do justice to the enormity of the topic “diversity in videogames” or even to the questions asked of us, I hope that we did get to dispel the myth of the white-man-living-in-his-mother’s-basement. Maybe, if we were really lucky, we’ll have encouraged some developer somewhere, someday to make a game that represents the vast diversity of the world we live in.

TLF’s Favorites: Intellectual Property and Technology Law Podcasts

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by Raizel

Considering the success of our two alternatives to Jezebel posts, we are going to have more TLF suggests posts. This first post of interesting podcasts focuses on intellectual property law. I listen to lots of podcasts — future podcasting posts will have more about media, technology, science, fandom, code switching, and more.

These podcasts range from public radio shows, to university produced content, to more. Not all focus solely on intellectual property or technology law. Blogging is difficult enough — and podcasting on the regular is even more challenging! Of course, there are plenty of interesting one-off podcasts, but to be included, the podcast needs to come out on a fairly regular basis and has been updated in the last three months or so. So no official recommendation of formerly active podcasts like the Intellectual Property Colloquium. I’ve also starred the ones that I rarely skip regardless of content, like this: {*}

Considering websites and feeds frequently change, if these links don’t work, please search for these on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app (I use Downcast where all of these are available). Did we miss your favorite podcast? Please share it in comments.

{*} Berkman Center for Internet and Society Audio Fishbowl

Lots of interesting talks at Harvard’s Berkman Center. There is also a video stream, but I prefer to listen to the audio while doing other things.

Bloomberg Law

About ¼ of the podcasts are about intellectual property. Short format and includes guests like Santa Clara Law Profs Eric Goldman and Tyler Ochoa.

Federalist Society’s Intellectual Property Practice Group Podcast

These podcasts definitely come from a group with a specific ideological viewpoint; the discussions of upcoming cases are timely and the economic issues of IP are thoroughly analyzed.

{*} On the Media

With a journalism-speaking to journalism bent, there is a large focus on the First Amendment, privacy, and copyright, with occasional mentions of trademark, trade secrets, and rights of publicity.

New Books in Law

Discussions about new books in law. All are interesting – but many have an IP focus.

{*} Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society’s Hearsay Culture

Dave Levine interviews some of the most interesting people in intellectual property and media studies scholarship.

{*} This Week in Law

While the title doesn’t include any IP words, this is an intellectual property and technology podcast. A weekly podcast that is always at least an hour, and there is also a video stream, but I prefer to listen to the audio while doing other things.

{*} Wired UK Podcast

All about technology — but of course frequently legal issues are discussed. If you are not a law-talking person, and feel overwhelmed by This Week in Law, give the Wired UK podcast a chance. Definitely the funnest podcast on this list.

Some Alternatives to Jezebel and xoJane – Part 2

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by Keidra Chaney

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Here’s part 2 of a short list of recs of places to send your valuable pageviews to besides Jezebel and xoJane. This week, I decided to focus on writers. Again, not an extensive list, just a jumping off point for more.

Trudy of Gradient Lair is not only a great source of black feminist and social media criticism, but also great pop culture criticism too.

Sarah Kendzior writes about the internet, education, labor, gender and race in a smart, incisive way. She tackles complex ideas but without academic jargon and is the kind of writer that demands attention and time to consume her work.

NPR’s Kat Chow covers race, ethnicity and gender at their blog CodeSwitch. i’ve mentioned her before, because I don’t think she gets the attention she deserves.

Also with NPR, Linda Holmes, formerly of Television without Pity, writes essays on TV, film, and music for the blog Monkey See. Not a feminist pop culture blog exclusively but with feminist themes and perspectives throughout.

Kate Foster and Miranda Feneberger of High Voltage a general interest, but fashion focused blog that has the indie appeal of old-school Bust Magazine. They also have YouTube channel. Highly recommended.

Shanley Kane’s cultural criticism focuses on the tech/startup scene. and she is one of the most clear-voiced critics of sexism and false meritocracy within Silicon Valley.

They’re both friends, but even if they weren’t, I’d be recommending Yasmin Nair and Veronica Arreola’s great writing. Both have contributed thoughtful essays on The Nation’s recent “Twitter Feminism Wars” piece

As news editor at Colorlines, Jamilah King plays the role of news curator as much as she writes, focusing on discussions of gender, sexuality, and race.

Share your favorite writers below!

Some Alternatives to Jezebel and xoJane – Part 1

Done with Jez and xoJane? You've got other options.

by Keidra Chaney

Done with Jez and xoJane? You've got other options.

Done with Jez and xoJane? You’ve got other options.

On the surface, it seems like grim times for online publications for women, between Jezebel’s $10,000 body-shaming campaign against Lena Dunham and xoJane’s  odious “OMG there’s a black person in my yoga studio!” essay. (I’m not linking to them, look them up.) A perceptive group of readers recognized Jezebel’s fail really early and bailed a few years ago, but xoJane, which has previously published a couple of good pieces on race and sexuality,  reached a new level of NO with the yoga piece.

The bad news is, these publications are seen as the gold standard of web journalism for women, at least by the mainstream. They are well-funded and drive tons of traffic. The good news is we absolutely don’t have to read them because there are scores of fantastic publications, blogs, and writers that do what Jez and xoJane do, sans their special brand of clickbait psuedo-feminism. I wanted to highlight a few publications but after putting a call out to friends and relations, I was clued in to a host of other great publications, blogs and writers to the point that I am planning to break this up into a series, the first of which is publications (rather than the blogs of individuals)

Here’s the thing, despite what Bustle.com founder  Bryan Goldberg thinks, women reading stuff on the web didn’t start in 2013. For those of us who remember the halcyon (?) days of feminist indie print magazines and even the yayboo era of feminist blogs in the mid 2000′s know there a huge and diverse community of publications that NEED FOR YOU TO READ THEM. And occasionally click on ads/donate money so they can stay alive.

As with everything, this isn’t a definitive list, and I’m not you, so your mileage may vary about the regular content of these pubs.  So please save your laundry list of reasons why “X publication is’problematic” because I have no interest in it. but if you have an alternative to said publication, please, please add it in the comments and I’ll add them to the list, so we can push the voices that need to be heard.

Peace, and stay tuned for more.

General Interest

The publication that’s the closest thing to being Jez or xoJane without being Jez or xoJane these days is probably The Hairpin. Like the aforementioned, The Hairpin is a broad “women’s interest” publication, which means you’ll get your usual posts about fashion, current trending news events, pop culture/gossip YouTube distractions, etc. It’s not a feminist publication explicitly, though they do cover politics, workplace equality, LGBT (the “Ask a queer Chick” column is pretty cool.) Personally I find the editorial tone of The Hairpin is a breath of fresh air compared to the page-view jockeying of many web publications, but  (Also see The Toast, featuring former Hairpin writers, it’s little more indie and more feminist in its content focus, IMO.)

For Harriet is like the grad school student older sister of Madame Noire, dealing with many of the same topics of interest to black women but with a much more thoughtful, measured tone. The writing in general is longer, skews a bit older, and is more overtly political/feminist/womanist in its tone. For example, you will likely not find a piece called “Rethinking Biblical Literalism for Our Own Well Being” in Madame Noire. I also enjoy Coloures, an offshoot of For Harriet that focuses on fashion and black women. It’s mostly like a lookbook instead of focusing on writing and commentary, but it’s entertaining, not to mention, a lovely, rare look at fashion that puts black women at the center. (I’d love more general interest publication recs for women of color, please share them in comments!)

Other recs:

For Geeky Ladies

The Skepchick media family describes itself as being more focused on “critical thinking and science” and is less pop culture focused than Bitch Media, though they do tackle issues in music, television and film as well as science journalism/news and general cultural affairs, Think of Skepchick as if Bitch (if she was a person) went to grad school in the sciences or law instead of getting that cultural studies Ph.D.

While a publication like The Mary Sue focuses heavily on geek culture with a focus on women, it has more of a high-level news and information focus. Geek Feminism is heavier on feminist criticism and geek culture. It also has a thoughtful and very detailed commenting policy, which I think is needed more than ever these days.

For Cultural Studies/Pop Culture nerds

I’m biased because Bitch Media gave me my start as a writer many years ago, but even if I had never written for them, they’d be on my list. Along with their excellent print magazine (check out their latest, fantastic Food Issue) Bitch creates thoughtful, nuanced pop culture commentary on the web via blog posts and podcasts. At the point where neither print publishers or tech funders were taking web publishing seriously, Bitch evolved into a multimedia platform/brand and continues to tackle feminism, race, sexuality, disability with integrity.

Persephone is a super-smart publication of meaty cultural writing for women that’s incisive without being trolly. But the real draw of this publication is its thoughtful community of readers and commenters. For example, one of the latest essays is Macklemore, Tim Wise & Anti-Racist Posturing. In the wrong hands an essay like this could blow up and become ground zero for online troll wars. Instead the conversation remains respectful and intelligent. Maybe it’s due to the fact that it’s not yet pulling in the traffic of Jezebel, but I think it has a lot to do with the editorial vision of the publication itself.

 

More recs:

 

 

(thanks to Sophia M., MShel, Deanna Z, Michi T, Margaret H., Erin W.. Jill H, Jennifer L. for chiming in!)

We Love Each Other, We Love Ourselves: TLF Editors’ Favorite Posts of 2013

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In years past, TLF has written a round up of our favorite memes of the past year. We tried to do it this year and found that for the most part it was a boring and somewhat unsettling year for memes. So, no roundup this year. However, we thought that it might be a good time to review some of our most popular and favorite TLF posts from the past year, so here they are. Happy reading!

Keidra

Sophia’s post on music sharing as courtship was a favorite of mine from earlier in the year because it articulated a lot of how we connect our own sense of self and identity to the pop culture we consume.

Laura F.’s Queens of The Stone Age post was great too, not just because I am a fan but because she brought a perspective to the “The Vampyre of Time and Memory.” video that I hadn’t read anywhere else.

Likewise, Faith’s take on 12 Years a Slave was about the overall themes of Steve McQueen’s work, rather than treading the same ground of deconstructing race and slavery films.

Kristin’s series on Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes Vs. Women videos was awesome to me, because we need to feel free to offer dissenting opinions within feminist pop-culture discourse without being shut down as a troll or “hater”, and Kristin’s series did that.

From Viv and Raizel, I enjoyed Viv and Kenzo’s dialogue on Katy Perry because it was such a unique take and Raizel’s argument for making Scarlet Witch a woman of color in the next Avengers film because it’s SO DAMN BRILLIANT.

Of my own writing, my posts on fandom and identity and the pitfalls of Kickstarter are the ones that sparked a personal interest in broader themes of online culture and community action that I am excited to write more about next year on the blog.

Vivian

People often say that writing is a solo activity, but I’ve found that what I enjoy the most is working with Keidra and others on our Scandal recaps. They’re different than the on-the-fly recapping from other sites (which are hilarious and often help me remember stuff I’ve forgotten in the wave of insanity) — they’re armchair discussions of the over-the-top crazy that Shonda and company bring. Collaborating with other writers is probably one of my favorite things I’ve done with The Learned Fangirl.

I love Raizel taking on journalism and diversity  because I feel like that’s been something I’ve been harping on for years and people are finally starting to notice it. I love that someone else gets what I’ve been complaining about for awhile now.

I loved Keidra’s discussion regarding Olivia Pope, anti-hero, because it was refreshing to see a discussion on how a WOC can lead a show, and SURPRISE! not be that likeable at times.

Surprise! Some of the stuff I tend to love the most is our collaboration on things, like this fanfic and desire one regarding Moneypenny from James Bond.

Really, there’s a lot of fantastic stuff on TLF this year and it’s showing a lot of major growth in the website and the contributing voices.

Raizel

What I enjoyed this year was many of the posts by our new contributors, bringing exciting new voices to the blog, especially:

- Heather E. Ash’s Dear LEGO®, In Regards to Your Marketing-Imposed Sex Change For My Son! and 

Dear LEGO®, In Regards to Your Marketing-Imposed Sex Change For My Son

- Kristin Bezio’s Life Outside the Sandbox: Why I Won’t Be Playing GTAV

- Laura Jung’s “Are you my mommy?” Steven Moffat’s Obsession with Mum

Of the posts by our editors, I really enjoyed these two controversial and thought provoking posts by Keidra and Viv, respectfully:

Being a Person of Color and a Metal Fan Sometimes Means Risking Heartbreak

An Open Letter to Fangirls About Anglophilia

And while I love writing book reviews and more, the posts I have been the most proud of have been the series of posts on gender and sexuality in kpop — a series that will continue into next year, including these two posts:

Pretty Boy, Punk Boy, Bad Boy: GD and T.O.P

‘Cause I’m So Bad, Bad, But I’m So Good, Good: Minzy & IU: Gender and Sexuality in K-Pop

 

I Read A Book:Limor Shifman’s Memes in Digital Culture

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MyBindersFullOfWomenExplodedby Raizel Liebler

Memes in Digital Culture by Limor Shifman is another great addition to the MIT Press Essential Knowledge Series. This book doesn’t dive the deepest, but it lays out all of the important issues well enough for anyone to understand why memes are so sticky — from a college student to an interested grandparent in why kids these days are making wacky cat videos.

Shifman spends the time in this short volume describing what is the difference between memes and virality:

Viral comprises a single cultural unit (such as a video, photo, or joke) that propagates in many copies, an Internet meme is always a collection of texts. … A single video is not an Internet meme but part of a meme – one manifestation of a group of texts that together can be described as the meme. … mememic content is … a living and changing entity that is incorporated in the body and mind of its hosts.

One of the best sections details the value of memes politically, including political participation. There are three significant ways memes have political impact: as political advocacy; as grassroots action – pulling together people who would otherwise not necessarily work together; and as a way of sharing one’s political opinions. And there is an additional value for memes within nondemocratic societies – as democratic subversion.

While the book does a great job of covering memes from a communications/media perspective, there is nary a mention of the impact of law, including copyright. The lack of mention of copyright is especially noteworthy considering that while there are a few word & picture meme examples in the book, some of the most discussed memes are videos, videos that are mentioned without direct links – and considering present YouTube Content ID takedowns, many of the examples mentioned may already not be available – and are likely to be less available in the future.

Finally, the final flaw in this introductory text is a lack of analysis on the differential aspects of memes regarding subcultures and cross-culturally. There is both a chapter on global memes and a discussion of Gangnam Style, but I wanted more – likely not possible in such a short guide, however.

Overall Summary: Memes in Digital Culture is a great overview of the impact of memes in online culture. Other recommended books I’ve read in the series include Open Access by Peter Suber & Intellectual Property by John Palfrey, so I hope the series continues to add more these important brief summaries.

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