Breaking the Meme: Critical Meme Reader III Launch

Memes are more than funny cat images on the internet. There are not even statistics available of how many memes are created and consumed every day, so it makes sense to look at them critically. Memes can have a tangible impact on the society we live in and could help create a future we would want. Join us for the launch of the Critical Meme Reader III: Breaking the Meme, edited by Chloë Arkenbout and Idil Galip.

When you want to say something about memes, it is impossible to escape having to define them first. What usually happens is that meme makers and thinkers fall back on two authors: Dawkins (1976) and Shifman (2014). How can memes be defined beyond their work in a way that is better suited to our current time? Building on this work – yes of course – but in a way that leaves space for the meme to breathe. Honoring its transgressive everchanging nature, instead of limiting it into a static framework it never chose to be in in the first place.

What happens if memes and those who research and make them are theorized rhizomatically? Are memes the master’s tools that can set the working class free? What are the politics of publicly archiving memes? What would the meme think and feel, if it had a consciousness? For meme studies to truly theoretically evolve as a field, the meme needs many expanded definitions. The goal of this evening is to break its definition open with different visions, and to keep it open – letting the meme choose for itself what it wants to stay, be and become.

About the speakers

Phil Wilkinson is a computer scientist turned social scientist who now undertakes interdisciplinary research across a range of fields. He investigates a wide range of subjects, depending on what happens to capture his (neuro)divergent interest, but primarily focuses on emergent digital cultures and pedagogies. Currently he is working as a ‘researcher-in-residence’ at a community centre where he is investigating and addressing the impact of the ‘digital divide’ on disadvantaged communities.

Alia Leonardi is a Belgian multi-disciplinary artist based in The Netherlands and a student at the Royal Academy of the Arts, The Hague. Her background in conflict studies pushes her to constantly explore the intersections of art and contemporary society. She is currently working on performativity and social media, as well as internet culture. Alia Leonardi is just a girl.

Alina Lupu was born and raised in Romania and works as a writer and post-conceptual artist in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She is a student of the Master Photography and Society at the Royal Academy of the Arts, the Hague, and a graduate of the Fine Arts department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. In her works, she looks at the role of the image and of performative actions when it comes to standing in solidarity through protest against capitalist hegemony and precarity.

Aidan Walker is a writer and researcher who has been published in Know Your Meme, Do Not Research, and other outlets. He is possibly the world’s leading authority on the Distracted Boyfriend meme, a niche topic on which he has written a hundred-page Master’s thesis.

Ray Dolitsay is a multidisciplinary digital artist and researcher. Currently, they are doing their Research Master’s in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. In their work, they investigate post-internet mythologies and radical queer embodiment in virtual spaces, that undermine capitalist gender architecture on/offline. Through their practice, they look into ways in which digital 3D imaginaries can queer the landscape of contemporary platforms, by often employing sound and immersive 3D environments.

İdil Galip is a lecturer in new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam. Her work investigates the conditions of cultural production on digital platforms through ethnographic and theoretical interventions. She is particularly interested in exploring how internet memes are made, shared and monetised and wrote her PhD thesis on this topic. Her monograph based on this work and titled “Beyond Virality: The Art of Internet Memes” will be published by Intellect Books in 2024. She is the founder of Meme Studies Research Network, and the co-editor of the third volume of the Critical Meme Reader.

Chloë Arkenbout works as a researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam and co-edited the third Critical Meme Reader with Idil Galip. She has a background in both media studies and philosophy and is interested in the tactics marginalized people use to challenge oppressive discourses in the digital public sphere – from social media comment wars to memes. They also co-edited the first two Critical Meme Readers INC published in 2021 and 2022. In addition, she works at the Communication & Multimedia Design program at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences where she mainly teaches social design and is a member of the university’s Research Ethics Committee.

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