Laughing across borders: Intertextuality of internet memes

Liisi Laineste, Piret Voolaid

Abstract


Internet humour flourishes on social network sites, special humour-dedicated sites and on web pages focusing on edutainment or infotainment. Its increasing pervasiveness has to do with the positive functions that humour is nowadays believed to carry – its bonding, affiliative and generally beneficial qualities. Internet humour, like other forms of cultural communication in this medium, passes along from person to person, and may scale (quickly or gradually, depending on the comic potential and other, sometimes rather elusive characteristics) into a shared social phenomenon, giving an insight into the preferences and ideas of the people who actively create and use it. The present research is primarily carried by the question of how the carriers of Internet humour, that is, memes and virals, travel across borders, to a smaller or greater degree being modified and adapted to a particular language and culture in the process. The intertextuality emerging as a result of adapting humorous texts is a perfect example of the inner workings of contemporary globalising cultural communication. Having analysed a corpus of 100 top-rated memes and virals from humour-dedicated web sites popular among Estonian users, we discuss how humour creates intertextual references that rely partly on the cultural memory of that particular (i.e. Estonian-language) community, and partly on global (primarily English- and Russian-language) cultural influences, thus producing hybrid cultural texts. The more interpretations are accessible for the audience (cf. polysemy Shabtai-Boxman & Shifman 2014), the more popular the text becomes, whereas the range of interpretations depends on the openness of the cultural item to further modification.


Keywords


Estonian jokelore, Internet humour, intertextuality, memes, virals, visual humour

Full Text:

VIEW FULL TEXT HERE

References


Adams, B. (2005). Tiny Revolutions in Russia: Twentieth-Century Soviet and Russian History in Anecdotes. New York/London: Routledge Curzon.

Astapova, A. (2015). ‘Why all dictators have moustaches: Political jokes in contemporary Belarus’. HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, 28 (1), pp. 71–91.

Bauman, R. & Briggs, C. L. (1990). ‘Poetics and performance as critical perspectives on language and social life’. Annual Review of Anthropology, 19, pp. 59–88.

Baym, N. K. (1993). ‘Interpreting soap operas and creating community: Inside a computer-mediated fan culture’. Journal of Folklore Research 30 (2/3), pp. 143–176.

Baym, N. K. (1995). ‘The performance of humour in computer-mediated communication’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 1(2). [Online] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1995.tb00327.x/full. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Berger, A. A. (1995). Blind Men and Elephants: Perspectives on Humour. New Brunswick: Transaction.

Blank, T. (2012). ‘Introduction’, in Blank, T. (ed.), Folk Culture in the Digital Age. The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, pp. 1–24.

Blank, T. (2013). Folk Humour, Celebrity Culture, and Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Börzsei, L. (2013). ‘Makes a meme instead: A concise history of internet memes’. New Media Magazine: Digital Visual Culture 7, pp 152–193. [Online] http://www.newmediastudies.nl/publications/ebook_no7.pdf. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Buchel, B. (2012). Internet Memes as Means of Communication, University of Brno MA thesis; [Online] http://is.muni.cz/th/384995/fss_m/Buchel_thesis.pdf. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Coulson, S. (2015). ‘No one will ever wonder why, they said: Conceptual blending and humorous memes cross the road, they said’. Paper presented at the International Society of Humour Studies Conference. Oakland, CA, USA, 29 June – 3 July.

Danet, B., Wachenhauser, T., Bechar-Israeli, H., Cividalli, A. & Rosenbaum-Tamari, Y. (1995). ‘Curtain time 20:00 GMT: Experiments in virtual theatre on Internet Relay Chat’. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication 1 (2). [Online] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1997.tb00195.x/full. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Danet, B., Ruedenberg-Wright, L. & Rosenbaum-Tamari, Y. (1997). ‘“HMMM…WHERE'S THAT SMOKE COMING FROM?” Writing, play and performance on Internet Relay Chat’. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 2 (4). [Online] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.1997.tb00195.x/full. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Davies, C. (1990). Ethnic Humour Around the World: A Comparative Analysis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Davies, C. (2011). Jokes and Targets. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. London: Oxford University Press.

Draitser, E. (1998). Taking Penguins to the Movies. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Dundes, A. & Abrahams, R.D. (1969). ‘On elephantasy and elephanticide’. Psychoanalytic Review 56, pp. 225–241.

Gorny, E. (2005). A Creative History of the Russian Internet. Goldsmiths College, University of London PhD thesis. [Online] http://elmcip.net/sites/default/files/files/attachments/criticalwriting/gorny.pdf. [Accessed 25 February 2016.]

Graham, S. (2009). Resonant Dissonance. The Russian Joke in Cultural Context. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Graham, S. & Mesropova, O. (2009). Reinventing Humour and Satire in Post-Soviet Russia. Columbus, OH: Slavica.

Helmy, M. M. & Frerichs, S. (2013). ‘Stripping the boss: The powerful role of humour in the Egyptian Revolution 2011’. Integrative Psychological & Behavioural Science, 47(4), pp. 50–81.

Howard, R. (2012). ‘How counter-culture helped put the ‘vernacular’ in Vernacular Webs”’, in Blank, T. (ed.), Folk Culture in the Digital Age. The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, pp. 25–45.

Hutcheon, L. (2000). A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. Urbana: University of Illinois.

Häkkinen, A. & Leppänen, S. (2014). ‘YouTube meme warriors: Mashup videos as political critique’, Varieng 15. [Online] http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/series/volumes/15/hakkinen_leppanen/

Knobel, M. & Lankshear, C. (2005). ‘Memes and affinities: Cultural replication and literacy education’. Paper presented to the annual NRC, Miami, November 30. [Online] http://everydayliteracies.net/files/memes2.pdf. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2007). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning. Buckingham: Open University Press

Knobel, M. and Lankshear, C. (2008). ‘Remix: The art and craft of endless hybridisation’. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52 (1), pp. 22–33.

Kõresaar, E. 2006. ‘Kollektives Gedächtnis und nationale Textgemeinschaft im postsowjetischen Estland: Ein Beispiel über die intertextuelle Verwendung des Nationalepos “Kalevipoeg” in den estnischen Lebensgeschichten’, in Bartens, H.H., Röhrborn, K., Sagaster, K. & Winkler, E. (eds.), Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher. Internationale Zeitschrift für uralische und altaische Forschung. Neue Folge. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, pp. 101–124.

Krikmann, A. (2004). Netinalju Stalinist / Интернет-анекдоты о Сталине / Internet Humour about Stalin. Tartu: Estonian Literary Museum, The Centre of Cultural History and Folkloristics in Estonia. [Online] http://www.folklore.ee/~kriku/HUUMOR/STALIN_FIN.pdf. [Accessed 25 February 2016.]

Krikmann, A. (2009). ‘Jokes in Soviet Estonia’. Folklore 43: 43–66. [Online] https://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol43/krikmann.pdf. [Accessed 8 September 2016.]

Kuipers, G. (2002). ‘Media culture and internet disaster jokes: Bin Laden and the attack on the World Trade Center’. European Journal of Cultural Studies 5 (4), pp. 450–470.

Laineste, L. (2009). Political jokes in Post-socialist Estonia (2000–2007), in Krikmann, A. & Laineste, L. (eds.), Permitted Laughter: Socialist, Post-Socialist and Never-Socialist Humour. Tartu: EKM Teaduskirjastus, pp. 41–72.

Laineste, L. (2012). ‘They didn’t batter us enough: Soviet nostalgia in post-socialist humour’. Paper presented at the conference Humour in conventional and unconventional politics, November 5–9, Galati, Romania.

Laineste, L. (2015). ‘„...VÕI NAGU SELLES ANEKDOODIS”: Anekdoot veebisuhtluses’ (‘Or like in this joke: The joke in online communication’). Keel ja Kirjandus, pp. 652−666. [Online] http://kjk.eki.ee/ee/issues/2015/8-9/688. [Accessed 24 February 2016.]

Laineste, L. (forthcoming). Emotions in Estonian online discussions about refugees, in Chovanec, J. & Molek-Kozakowska, K. (eds.), Representing the Other in European Media Discourses. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Leppänen, S., Kytölä, S., Jousmäki, H., Peuronen, S. & Westinen, E. (2014). Entextualisation and resemiotisation as resources for (dis)identification in social media, in Seargeant, P. & Tagg, C. (eds.), The Language of Social Media: Identity and Community on the Internet. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 112–136. [Online] https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/upload/a3d5524e-4413-4772-9f96-9fe0ee714c6f_TPCS_57_Leppanen-etal.pdf. [Accessed 20 September 2016.]

Lin, C., Huang, Y. & Hsu, J.Y. (2014). ‘Crowdsourced explanations for humorous internet memes based on linguistic theories’. Proceedings of the Second AAAI Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing (HCOMP 2014). [Online] http://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/HCOMP/HCOMP14/paper/viewFile/8980/8964. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Milner, R. M. (2013). ‘Pop polyvocality: Internet memes, public participation, and the occupy wall street movement’. International Journal of Communication 7, pp. 2357–2390.

Miltner, K. M. (2014). ‘“There’s no place for lulz on LOLCats”: The role of genre, gender and group identity in the interpretation and enjoyment of an internet meme’. First Monday, 19 (8).

MINAS-5 report 2011 = Miinimumnõuded varjupaigataotlejate sisserände haldamisele, vastuvõtule ja kaitsele Eestis ('Minimal requirements of maintainting, accepting and defending immigration of refugees in Estonia') (2011). Rahvusvahelise kaitse saanud isikute integratsioon Eesti ühiskonda: Olemasoleva süsteemi kaardistus ja ettepanekud ('Integrating persons who have granted international protection to Estonian society: Mapping the present system and new suggestions'). [Online] http://www.pagulasabi.ee/sites/default/files/public/rahvusvahelise-kaitse-saanud-isikute-integratsioon-eesti-uhiskonda.pdf. [Accessed 25 February 2016.]

Nissenbaum, A, & Shifman, L. (2015). ‘Internet memes as contested cultural capital: The case of 4chan /b/ board’. New Media & Society. [Online] http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1461444815609313. [Accessed 22 December 2016.]

Oring, E. (2003). Engaging Humour. Urbana: Illinois University Press.

Robertson, R. (1995). ‘Glocalisation: Time-space and homogeneity-heterogeneity’, in Featherstone, M., Lash, S. & Robertson, R. (eds.), Global Modernities. London: Sage, pp. 25–44.

Ross, A. (1998). The Language of Humour. London: Routledge.

Shabtai-Boxman, L. & Shifman, L. (2014). ‘Evasive targets: Deciphering polysemy in mediated humour’. Journal of Communication 64 (5), pp. 977–998.

Shifman, L. (2006). ‘Humour in the age of digital reproduction: Continuity and change in internet-based comic texts’. International Journal of Communication 1, pp. 187–209, [Online] http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/11/34. [Accessed 24 February 2016.]

Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Shifman, L., Levy, H. & Thelwall, M. (2014). ‘Internet jokes: The secret agents of globalisation?’ Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 19, pp. 727-743.

Sparke, M. (2013). ‘From global dispossession to local repossession: Towards a worldly cultural geography of Occupy Activism’, in Johnson, N. C., Schein, R. H. & Winders, J. (eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Cultural Geography, First Edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 387–408.

Varis, P. & Blommaert, J. (2015). ‘Conviviality and collectives on social media: Virality, memes, and new social structures’. Multilingual Margins 2 (1), p. 31–45.

Vickery, J. (2014). ‘The curious case of confession bear: The reappropriation of online macro-image memes’. Information, Communication & Society 17 (3), pp. 301-325. [Online] http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2013.87105. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Voolaid, P. (2010a). ‘Humorous interpretations of abbreviations as a socio-cultural phenomenon’. Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore 46, pp. 61−82. [Online] http://folklore.ee/folklore/vol46/voolaid.pdf. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Voolaid, P. (2010b). ‘Animal lore in Estonian riddle periphery’, in Stasulane, A. (ed.), Kulturas studijas: Zinatnisko rakstu krajums (‘Scientific Papers: Animals in Literature and Culture’). Daugavpils: Daugavpils University Academic Press "Saule", pp. 34–46.

Voolaid, P. (2011). ‘Recent developments in pupils’ riddle usage in Estonia’, in Csúcs, S., Falk, N., Tóth, V. & Zaicz, G. (eds.), Congress XI Internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum: Dissertationes Sectionum et Symposiorum ad Ethnologiam, Folkloristicam et Mythologiam. Piliscsaba: Reguly Társaság, pp. 207–213.

Voolaid, P. & Laineste, L. (2013). ‘We believe! Online representations of the Olympic Winner as a Mythic Hero’. Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore 54. [Online] http://folklore.ee/folklore/vol54/voolaid_laineste.pdf. [Accessed 15 February 2016.]

Warnick, B. (2007). Rhetoric Online: Persuasion and Politics on the World Wide Web. New York: Peter Lang.

Wienkler-Piepho, S. (1998). ‘Böse Zungen im Gelächter der Geschlechter’. Kuckuck. Notizen zu Alltagskultur und Volkskunde 1, pp. 28–33.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7592/EJHR2016.4.4.laineste

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Publication ethics and malpractice statement