Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes: Neknomination, the Ice-Bucket Challenge and SmearForSmear as Imitative Encounters

Burgess, Adam and Miller, Vincent and Moore, Sarah (2017) Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes: Neknomination, the Ice-Bucket Challenge and SmearForSmear as Imitative Encounters. Sociology, . ISSN 0038-0385. E-ISSN 1469-8684. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038516680312) (Full text available)

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Abstract

This article examines social media challenges that emerged in 2013, focusing on Neknomination, the Ice-Bucket Challenge and SmearForSmear. We understand them as ‘viral challenge memes’ that manifest a set of consistent features, making them a distinctive phenomenon within digital culture. Drawing upon Tarde’s concept of the imitative-encounter, we highlight three central features: their basis in social belonging and participation; the role of prestigious people and groups in determining the spread of challenges; and the distinctive techniques of self-presentation undertaken by participants. Based upon focus group interviews, surveys and visual analysis we suggest that viral challenge memes are social practices that diffuse in a wave-like fashion. Negotiating tensions between the social and individual, imitation and innovation, continuity and change, viral challenge memes are best thought of as creative practices, rather than sheep-like acts of conformity, and affirm the usefulness of analytical principles drawn from Tarde.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: digital culture, Ice-Bucket Challenge, Neknomination, SmearForSmear, Tarde, viral challenge memes
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adam Burgess
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2017 10:02 UTC
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2018 14:40 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/61360 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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