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Frogs and ogres: transformation, reuse and creativity in meme culture

Bardos, Bence (2023) Frogs and ogres: transformation, reuse and creativity in meme culture. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.103266) (KAR id:103266)


Memes have been the zeitgeist of social media participation for the last three decades, but their creative, comedic, playful and transformative complexities are under-emphasised by current digital media scholarship. The purpose of this thesis is to bring light to the inner social, technological and formal logics of meme culture and to describe complex meaning in an otherwise difficult to grasp cultural environment. Additionally, this thesis aims to construct new models of understanding memes with the help of a diverse range of methodologies and disciplines including genre theory, parody theory, humour studies, play theory, communication studies and copyright law. Through this approach, the thesis cuts ties with the prominent, but ineffective guiding framework of Dawkinsian memetics. Instead, it offers an alternative to prior definitions of memes, and looks at them as an emergent, vernacular genre of the web 2.0 social media landscape. This is done through both theoretical discussion and mixed methods media analysis. As such, discussed ideas (such as 'hypertextuality', 'parody', 're-entextualisation' and 'resemiotisation') are put into the practice of textual, intertextual and contextual analysis. Findings of this thesis indicate that the frameworks of rhetorical genre theory, remediation as well as social laughter and social play prove particularly effective for the genre understanding of memes. Further, two key case studies - the 'Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life' and 'Pepe the Frog' memes - prove successful examples for the adaptation of parodic and paralinguistic lenses onto a media studies understanding of meme culture. Additional learnings suggest that the transformativeness of memes could face challenges but could also earn recognition under recent EU, UK and US understandings of parody as copyright exception; and that the methodology of context-sensitive qualitative analysis can re-position prior understandings of everyday reuse into a more complex but also more accurate framework. Overall, the findings of this thesis emphasise and demystify online cultural transformation as it happens, in both grand and subtle ways, through everyday meme participation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Declercq, Dieter
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.103266
Uncontrolled keywords: participation; remix; copyright; meme; internet; reuse; transformation
Subjects: N Visual Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2023 07:10 UTC
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2023 13:49 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Bardos, Bence.

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