Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues

6.4.3 Looking at memes (prospectus)

Alexander Caldwell

English 102, March 2021

For my final research paper, I still plan on using the memes topic. The importance of the phenomenon that is referred to as memes are its heavy relationship to communication. I believe it is important for people to realize that memes are a form of communication because the simple fact that humans are social animals. With that in mind, anything social, especially communication, should be studied and learned about to ensure that humanity has an understanding of itself. Memes, without question, play a role in modern society and will likely do so for some time to come. While it is difficult trying to turn a topic that is not serious at all into an academic study, I find it most rewarding to know more about those short and humorous texts or videos. Memes make many people, myself included, share a laugh and can be enjoyed by almost everyone.


The formatting of the final research essay will be important in communicating what I have to say. For this reason, I believe the topic of memes would benefit from starting from a more specific and relatable stage. Then as the research essay continues, the topic will become broader, and sound more ‘academic.’ Through this essay, I will try to do a different approach of letting the reader know my thesis. In the final research essay, I’d like to try to hint at the thesis and let the reader discover the thesis along the way to reading the paper. This method will coincide with the specific to broad because I will be allowed to subtly hint and point to the thesis while bringing up evidence for the main topic.

Starting the Reader Off

In the research essay, I believe that instantly insisting that memes are related to communication might be a little much for the common reader. Instead, what I’d like to do is first build up relatability with the reader. I’d like to do this by using the results from a survey. The survey will ask random users on Discord and Instagram what their favorite meme is, what they about the meme that relates to themself, and what is the meme’s formatting trying to communicate. I will then, briefly, quote a few responses and afterwards I would like to draw a generalized conclusion that should relate to the topic of communication through memes. From there, I’d like to take one of the quoted memes for the survey and do a rhetorical analysis on the meme. This would allow the reader to ease into the idea that memes play an important role in communication. The survey and the rhetorical analysis will allow the reader to start learning the thesis and my main points without me directly having to tell them.

Questions to be Answered

With the idea vaguely clear to the reader, I’d like to answer my first set of questions. Since the rhetorical analysis would still be fresh in the readers’ minds, asking the question “How do memes get circulated?” From there I will talk about the origin of memes and again, use this information to subtly link memes and communication. This will be accomplished because the memes will be related to a language, and they will also be connected to the original definition of memes. Through the sharing and quality of memes that relate to communication, the reader will most likely be ready to see evidence that memes can be used in communication.

The next part in the essay will require me to answer the questions of “how are memes use in marketing?” and “how are memes used in politics?” The marketing question will be answered based on research of how memes self-made by companies and by memes made by the public influence a product. From there, I will allude back to the fact that marketing is nothing but the effective and clever use of communication to convince a consumer to buy a product. This, in short, will then translate over to memes being a form of communication since memes are able to convince, therefore, to communicate, to the public to buy a product. I’d then like to go into the politics question. While it is quite obvious that memes were used in the 2020 election, I’d like to stay away from the idea of Democrats versus Republicans because I do not want to inject any personal bias, nor do I want to create a polarized audience on the topic of memes. This would also ensure that memes do not “belong” to one party or another. Instead, I’d like to take on a more foreign politics, this would be ideal for an American audience since the question is not “who’s the Democrat and who’s the Republican” the question will remain “there is no Democrat or Republican, so how do memes relate to politics?” Another question I might consider looking at, that which regards politics is “what is the effect of viewing a political meme versus a non-political meme?” This question, which can relate to how memes are used in politics also takes a impartial view. By using this neutral approach, the reader will be less distracted by politics and will more easily discover that memes can be used in political situations to advocate a position by communicating through humorous memes. This section would answer the question of which fields would care about memes and using memes as communication.

At this point, I’d hope the audience has reached the same conclusion that I have in mind. I will then proceed to declare the point that memes do relate to communication and meme can be used as a form of communication. This will, in a sense, be something of a thesis for the paper, as it covers the main point of the research paper. I will likely try to make the thesis its own paragraph because to avoid confusion. To explain further, I do not want the audience thinking that the thesis only applies to the topic of the paragraph it is put in, rather than the topic of the paper. My goal is to have the reader understand that memes relate to communication regardless the context.

I feel as though the ‘climax’ of the research essay would have already been exploited. From there I would like to wind the reader down. Next, I will begin to introduce terminologies. I will then try to answer the question “So now that meme seems to related to communication, how would it classify and fully related to communicating?” This is where some of the more complex ideas come into play. I will re-introduce the original definition of a meme and show the reader how memes relate to real terminologies related to the field of communication. This will then provide the reader with a more academic understanding of how memes can relate to communication.

Final Statements

Overall, I believe that I can establish a clear and understandable relationship with meme to communication by the end of the paper. I will also make sure the topic of memes can relate to the general fields of work that I am aiming to present to the audience. The conclusion will wrap up any loose ends and likely tie back into the idea that humans are social animals and memes are just another form of human communication.

Annotated Bibliography

Davison, Patrick. “The Language of Internet Memes.” The Social Media Reader, edited by Michael Mandiberg, New York University Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central,

In Patrick Davison’s article, he makes mention that the term meme was made by a man named Richard 1972.  Dawkins described a meme as an action or behavior that is passed along. Davison’s article then tells the reader how memes are similar to language. He cites the fact that memes have a set code and formulas to follow. Using this logic, Davison suggests that memes are a shared language that are an addition to culture.

Gee, James Paul. “What is Literacy” The Journal of Education, vol. 171, no. 1, 1989, pp. 18–25.

Gee’s article of elaborates on what he considers to be literacy. He starts out with the ideas of primary and secondary discourse. The primary discourse refers to the communication between intimates and the individual. This discourse is said to be the ‘free’ discourse as it is picked up from just being around intimates. Secondary discourse is similar to primary, is it the discourse between an individual and non-intimate people or institutions. Secondary discourse therefore must be learned over time and as a gradual process.

Grundlingh, L. “Memes as Speech Acts.” Social Semiotics, vol. 28, no. 2, Apr. 2018, pp. 147–168. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10350330.2017.1303020.

Grundlingh is another author that mentions Dawkins work. Dawkin got the word meme from the Greek word mīmēma, translated as “something imitated” In Grundling’s article, “speech acts” is a term that is used, which describes the communication between two people. The author then ties this idea with semiotics, which is the link between nonverbal and verbal communication. Grundlingh then concludes that even memes without a set text to describe a scenario can be considered a form of communication.

Sharma, Harshit. “Memes in Digital Culture and Their Role in Marketing and Communication: A Study in India.” Interactions: Studies in Communication & Culture, vol. 9, no. 3, Nov. 2018, pp. 303–318. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/iscc.9.3.303_1.

Harshit Sharma’s article covers how memes have been used in advertising and the advancement of products. In the first part of his article, Sharma references an Old Spice commercial. Sharma points out that the commercial was basically a meme and that the meme commercial helped boost the company’s profit. Sharma then mentions memes that are made outside a company for a drink in India, and how memers made memes about the drink which provided as free advertising. The last part of Sharma’s article describes an experiment-interview of advertising professionals and their perspective on using memes to advertise to the public.

Zakem, Vera, Megan K. McBride, and Kate Hammerberg. “Exploring the utility of memes for US government influence campaigns.” Center for Naval Analyses Arlington United States, 2018.

In Zakem’s article, they mention how memes are used in politics and in political campaigns. The article goes over the construct of memes. In this construct, it describes three terms, inoculate, infect, and treat. Inoculate refers to action of sharing memes that try to convince the audience to have lighter judgment on a issue that negatively effects a politician. Infect is spreading of memes that support a politician’s ideas. Treat is the category that describes memes that try to rebuttal any negative information that is against a politician.

Chuah, Kee-Man, Yumni Musfirah Kahar, and Looi-Chin Ch’ng. “We “Meme” Business: Exploring Malaysian Youths’interpretation Of Internet Memes In Social Media Marketing.” International Journal of Business and Society, Vol. 21 No. 2, 2020.

The article goes over the idea of using memes as marketing tools. The first point they make is that using memes randomly to highlight a business’s sale is not a good idea. The authors then proceed to write about iconicity or the understanding that the audience has of the meme. If the audience understands the meme well, the meme has high iconicity. The article also went on to results of a study. The study showed that memes with shorter text and text more related to the image of the meme had more iconicity.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv. “This Is Where Internet Memes Come From.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 11 June 2018,

How memes are shared and spread was found by a study descried in the article. In the study a team of researchers worked to follow memes. The researchers used computer programs and algorithms to keep track of the millions of memes flowing through the internet. The study found out that a large sum of memes is being actively created in 4chan communities. The study suggests that these communities are mass producing memes, many of which are politically charged.

Gleick, James. “What Defines a Meme?”, Smithsonian Institution, May 2011,

The article written by Gleick goes deep into the Dawkin’s definition of meme. The author writes that ideas, and their spreading, is the described as memes. He continues by differentiating memes from the objects they belong to. As an example, Gleick uses the hula hoop. In the late fifties, the hula hoop became popular. While the hula hoop was not a meme itself, it was an object that was used by the meme. Therefore, Gleick concludes that meme survival is dependent on the success of the object the meme is associated with.

Phillips, Whitney, and Ryan Milner. “The Best Internet Memes Make Communication an Art Form. But There Is a Dark Side.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 July 2019,

While this article takes a negative or rather precautious view on memes, the author still insist that memes are more than capable of sending social messages. These social messages can share positivity or pose harm on to others. The article also continues a claim that internet memes really started out with the popularization of 4chan. The article suggests that the short humorous reporting and editing of images on 4chan were the cause memes increase in popularity.

Axelrod, Emma. “The Role of Memes in Politics.” Brown Political Review, 20 Mar. 2016,

Axelrod start her article out by mentioning that memes are now an apparent part of politics. The article contuines by saying that people are starting to view politics more like sports teams. These teams are then influenced by memes. Rather than developing political opinions on a party’s or individual’s ideology, people are beginning to form something that of a demagogue (or anti-demagogue for that matter). The author finishes off by pointing out that the youth age-group has been politically active, likely because of memes.

Opspe. “Memetic Communication.” Know Your Meme, 5 March 2013,

The article takes the approach head on that memes can be used directly as a form of communication. The writer elaborates with the idea that people send each other gifs, images, or video. The content is usually considered a meme by nature and can be understood by the recipient of the meme. The author refers to these texts as ‘reaction images.’ The author also covers over emojis and internet slang. In either case, the author brings up the emojis or slang’s origin to memes, therefore relating communication and memes.

Huntington, Heidi E. “Affect and effect of Internet memes: assessing perceptions and influence of online user-generated political discourse as media,” Colorado State University, 2017.

The article by Huntington follows a study on how political and non-political memes influence an individual. The political memes where generally found to be easily identifiable as a vehicle for political stances rather than simple jokes. The memes that were identified as political fail to bring in understanding, rather they brought adversity from the viewers. The only to not invoke a disagreement from the viewer was to show the viewer a meme that followed along the lines of their current political stance. One of the conclusions of the study shows that non-political memes are more persuasive than political memes.


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