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The World Made MemePublic Conversations and Participatory Media$
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Ryan M. Milner

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034999

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034999.001.0001

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Conclusion: The World Made Meme

Conclusion: The World Made Meme

(p.217) Conclusion: The World Made Meme
The World Made Meme

Ryan M. Milner

The MIT Press

Once in class—with the Photoshopped picture of Kanye West interrupting Martin Luther King, Jr. (figure 1.1) on the screen behind me—I asked my students to define internet meme. There was the usual desk staring and head scratching, until a student in the back spoke up. “It’s like … a nationwide inside joke,” she said. Her unconventional definition inspired chuckles. But as the hours wore on, I realized its poignancy. Like inside jokes between friends, internet memes—the multimodal texts created, circulated, and transformed by countless cultural participants—balance the familiar and the foreign. And like inside jokes, internet memes are at once universal and particular; they allow creative play based on established phrasal, image, video, and performative tropes. The difference, of course, is the scale of these inside jokes. Assessing that scale, this book has charted the vibrancy that emerges when expressive strands become interactional threads, which in turn weave vast cultural tapestries. In the end, ...

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