You can not Step into the Same Meme Twice

An Internet meme is an activity, concept, catchphrase or piece of media which spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet.

It most commonly takes the form of an image, frequently an animated or still image macro  . Hyperlinks, video, websites, and hashtags can be used as internet memes as well. Catch phrases, slogans, logos, sometimes including an intentional or unintentional misspelling can become memes on social media platforms. These small movements tend to spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, or news sources. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on various websites, or blogs, and other social media communications sites. Instant communication through digital devices facilitates rapid multiple word-of-mouth transmission .

The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads.

Internet memes are a subset of this general meme concept specific to the culture and environment of the Internet. The concept of the Internet meme was first proposed by Mike Godwin in the June 1993 issue of Wired.

A meme is an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture — often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

The self-replicating and mutating component of memes in a digital mass media environment means that memes can change dramatically in their intent and original message. A recent example of this shifting intent is Pepe the Frog, which was hijacked and given a racist intent by those in the extreme American right .

Because Mass Media conveys intentional and unintentional messages, and visual fields of information are highly susceptible to context clues and placement, internet memes are fluid in meaning and intent. With their highly visual content and digital text environment being so flexible in layout and incorporating layers of information ( audio, colour, size, shape, and animation ), internet memes can change meaning much faster than regular language. So, as Heraclitus might say, you can not step into the same meme twice.



For more information & insight on memes see Project 3: Exercise 4.3 – Memes.

For a more alternative creative expression approach to memes see my Implied Spaces post, What is the Meme-ing of This


Ottawa’s Past in Pictures : Photography as Mass Media

A view of the Centre Block in 1884, with its centrepiece the 55-metre-high Victoria Tower. After being destroyed by the great fire of 1916, the Centre Block was rebuilt with a newly-designed and taller Peace Tower. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-003340)

 Photography functions both as a Mass Medium and as content for other Mass Media. It can be used as a means of documenting  events and as an artistic medium to entertain/comment . The CBC News has been running a series of articles exploring Ottawa‘s past through archival photography. As with any form of Mass Media, these pieces of media reveal target audience, values. beliefs & ideologies, and convey intended and unintended messages.

Ottawa’s thin blue line was a lot thinner in 1912, with a much smaller police force for a much smaller municipal population of about 100,000. Back then, bicycles served as equivalent of squad cars. Police officer James Fagan is posing outside C. Poulin’s store at 324 Rochester St. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001216)


The Anglo-Irish police officer in front of a French Canadian owned store reveal/suggest the cultural-socioeconomic structural lines of Canadian society . To further cement  this image a truly Canadian, note the shop window. Red Rose Tea, advertised for sale in the shop window,  is a classic emblem of Canada.  Red Rose Tea  was a beverage company established by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. It is considered an iconic part of Canadian culture and many consumers have a strong emotional attachment to the brand  ( Only in Canada, eh ? Pity….. ).

Workers at the Ottawa Car Company plant on Slater Street pose with ‘Lallah Rookh,’ one of the first electric streetcars to ply the streets of Ottawa, in this 1893 photo. The company would go on to build 1,700 streetcar and rail vehicles before closing in 1947. Electric streetcars operated in the capital from June 1891 until May 1959. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001508)


The white working men pose depict their social class and the style of clothing of the time. Notice the little girls to the left dressed in very adult clothes of young ladies. Childhood was seen as miniature adulthood and girls & women had roles to fill that were as defined as the men posing in the shot.

The young girls  in the following shot, infant Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her sisters, resided in Ottawa during the WW II, they too had roles to play, even as children.  They were emblems of a social structure, a society & people under threat, and the  Yousuf Karsh portrait is intended to portray/represent a mother and her children who have sought sanctuary.


Princess Juliana of the Netherlands holds an infant Princess Margriet at Stornoway (later to become the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition) in Rockcliffe, their home during the Second World War. Juliana and her three girls found refuge in Ottawa after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. The Canadian government declared Juliana’s maternity room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital international territory to ensure Margriet would bear only Dutch citizenship. After the war, an appreciative Royal family sent Ottawa 100,000 tulips, spawning the long-standing tulip festival the capital continues to enjoy every spring. (Library and Archives Canada/Yousuf Karsh/PA-192854)

The potential of heroism & compassion can also be portrayed in scenes of tragedy and calamity , as the following images demonstrate.




Theories as to the cause of the Centre Block fire, but to this day it remains a mystery. An official inquiry failed to determine whether the blaze was sparked by arson, a careless smoker or perhaps faulty wiring. (John Boyd/Library and Archives Canada)


Eight people, including two children, all newly-arrived immigrants, died in the derailment. At least 50 more were injured. Many of those on board were Scottish and Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada only hours earlier. While many residents showed up to watch the spectacle, others helped search for and comfort survivors, and opened their homes to stranded families. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-025114)


Clicking the images will take you( new tab) to original CBC articles which include more images and information.  Consider the values, beliefs & ideologies the that the CBC is trying to convey about Canada, Canadian culture and Ottawa,  in our 150th year.


Steppin’ Out of Reality




The 7th Principle of Mass Media is, A new mass media technology will initially borrow the content and imitate the conventions of the mass medium that is currently dominant in a society. As the technology advances, the new medium will consume the older medium, turning it into content.  This  principle and the media text produced in this manner is what is called Necro-Media. This post features some examples of Necro-Media. 

While exploring posts from fellow photography bloggers, I came across some tagged as Polamatic. The Polamatic app enables you to convert your phone shots into a retro aesthetic that turns the shot into a composition that has the features and qualities of an old Polaroid picture.  I have some experience producing the Polaroid look, and PaintShop Pro imaging software includes a simple Polaroid frame effect which allows for the creation of Polaroid Transfer effects.  As a challenge and an experiment, I used two shots I had taken at the local bowling alley, when my daughter was participating in the weekly Special Olympics bowling night.  I tried to emulate as closely as possible the frame & look produced by a Polamatic app.  It took a bit of time to create & modify the frames, and the viewer can judge for themselves these first attempts. 

Let’s now consider how this all fits in with the concept of Necro-Media.  To begin with, the app itself is such an example. The app allows the user to take digital photographs with their phone and turn them into digital representations of old Polaroid pictures. The Mass Media technology allows the user to imitate the codes and conventions of an earlier medium, Polaroid Photography.  What I attempted in my experiment was to use other software to imitate the app.  In one sense I was just doing the same thing as the app, so that is an example of the same type of Necro-Media.  In another way, I was applying the principle to the app itself, by trying to emulate the Polamatic app’s features, including the use of dirt/scratches/folds and colourful text font.  The final compositions are Necro-Media of Necro-Media. 

The Steppin’ Out title for the first composition, brought to mind the classic jazz/swing standard, Steppin’ Out With My Baby, composed by Irving Berlin in 1948 and first performed by Fred Astaire in the movie, Easter Parade.  I selected the 1993 video of Tony Bennet ‘s rendition  of the song.

The music video was very successful at the time of its release. Helping to bring Bennett to the attention of a much younger generation, it established him as an elder statesman of a passing generation of entertainers.  It formed a bridge bridge between very different times. We can see this video composition as both a homage to the past, and as an example of Necro-Media. 

The first obvious  component is the use of B&W to emulate the old classic Fred & Ginger  movie musicals of the 1930s.  The choice of wardrobe combines the Fred & Ginger style with elements of the contemporary look of when the video was released.  The choice of camera angles, distances and staging also plays homage to the past. The mix of the older tap dancer ( could not find his name ) and the younger contemporary black dancers widens the target audience, while acknowledging the past and visually reflecting how much has changed in both the American entertainment industry & society. 

As the technology advances, the new medium will consume the older medium, turning it into content. This is both figuratively and literally true in this video. Besides all the aesthetic imitation and use of codes and conventions, take note of what is included in the limited number of props.  Included were, the early phonograph with the horn amplifier, the large records, the microphones included both 1930s nightclub that Bennett walks up to begin singing and a close-up of a radio studio microphone.  The later goes with the old radio being tuned .  The other technological prop was the fan typical of the early movies as a symbol of emotional heat and cool music.  

Mass Media technology and the forms of media  it generates are constantly changing and adapting. New art forms are created and old one respond to the impact, some adapt while others disappear, still others become specialty forms of art and communication.  The recent changes in the WordPress Reader demonstrate this, but that is for another post.  So now I will conclude & post this analysis; let’s  see  how it looks on the Reader.