In a previous July 23rd post, “A POPCORN Lesson...,” Sheila detailed all the language underlying a popcorn cartoon, including description, sequence, and perspective-taking. I have been discussing memes in consultation activities and presentations regarding technology integration and narratives, and the question often surfaces: What is a meme?
Let’s first go back to some of the ideas around the root of this word. In Ancient Greece, for those philosophical folks, the idea of mimesis was conceived as a concept underlying art. Art should imitate the physical world, thus resulting in human response to it and a sense of beauty. Plato contrasted mimesis—showing rather than telling—with diegesis, the telling of a story by a narrator.
I recall learning about these ideas in my early literature classes in college! We can compare and contrast these narrative forms with exposition, or explaining ideas (see Thememaker®). When critiquing narrative works such as movies, it’s always felt to be a no-no to have too much exposition, or telling (not showing), such as when a character suddenly explains the mystery inherent to a plot.
An example of too much exposition in film: the boring, trade-war-centered “The Phantom Menace.”
Meme in its shortened form came about in 1976 when evolutionary biologist Richard Hawkins proposed that organisms and ideas both rely on replication, duplication, and sharing in a sense. Though he had no idea that the internet would create a place where ideas were shared, this happened, particularly in the late ‘90s and early 2000s when the web first became “writable” to the average person. Think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, which are our current evolved channels for sharing. So today, a meme is an idea that spreads virally on the web, often taking the form of an image with dialogue or a caption.
Today’s kids really like memes, digesting them from internet spaces we are too cool to inhabit! Therefore, they serve as a textual or language-infused genre that we can exploit for our students’ engagement. Often a meme suggests some element of a narrative that serves to facilitate a discussion or mapping of other elements. Take this one:
Teasing out the story of this image could take the form of:
The meme above takes a common form of the “When…” (insert event or description). Memes also frequently suggest some sort of List, Sequence, and/or Compare/Contrast (below):
So, a few suggestions.
As a similar resource, also check out 13 Halloween Themed Dad Jokes That Are So Bad They’re Good.
Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology "through a language lens." Contact him at email@example.com.