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Methodological Directions for the Study of Memes

Methodological Directions for the Study of Memes
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Author(s): Giulia Giorgi (University of Milan, Italy & University of Turin, Italy)
Copyright: 2022
Pages: 37
Source title: Handbook of Research on Advanced Research Methodologies for a Digital Society
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Gabriella Punziano (University of Naples Federico II, Italy) and Angela Delli Paoli (University of Salerno, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8473-6.ch036


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The chapter proposes an empirically oriented analysis of the memetic production on Instagram. Defined as multimodal cultural artifacts, combining visual and textual material to convey humoristic messages, internet memes proliferate across the web, spawning new popular formats and layouts. However, many scholars still rely on outdated conceptualisations or limited samples for their studies. To anchor investigation on memes to the actual production, the research answers the questions: (1) Which meme formats are currently circulating online? (2) How do popular meme formats convey their message? To this end, a dataset of static images collected on Instagram was examined with qualitative visual and discourse analysis. Findings point at the possibility to adopt a bottom-up approach to recognize and classify memes, exploiting shared features of content and form. Furthermore, this categorization offers insights on the most productive mechanisms of meme production: contextually, results show a tendency towards formats that trigger identification, leveraging on relatable life situations.

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