Research Proposal: More than just a punchline!

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 6.32.21 PM

How many times a day do you scroll past or engage with internet memes? It seems meme culture is rapidly taking over the internet and with no discouragement from the users because let’s face it – they’re entertaining!

1 meme.jpg

It raises the question – how has communication changed due to the emergence of internet memes?

Visual communication has existed since the Ancient Greeks with their use of pictographs to interact with one another (Haldermann 2014). In today’s world, emoticons and memes are our versions of pictographs. Although, we now text, tweet, message or share with no caves or rocks required.

Memes communicate a message, perhaps even story and if we imagine “memes as a genre” could memes be considered a form of literature? (Ejaz 2016). Literature evolves with society as do memes. The comparison can be made between a meme and a fable as they are both “community-driven, anonymously produced and open to modification” (Ejaz 2016). This idea drove me to choose this topic to research as I am curious about both memes and literature.

Memes embody popular culture in the simplest form, an image. The origin of the infamous ‘meme’ began with biologist, Richard Dawkins in 1976. Dawkins related ‘meme’ to ‘gene’ in an attempt to characterise the small units of culture. They find their similarity based on their “spread”, from person to person (Shifman & Thelwall 2009). Memes are circulated across multiple internet platforms and like genes they experience “variation, selection and retention” (Shifman & Thelwall 2009).

Social media platforms are the main home to the majority of memes across the internet, from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram. Many users rely on these platforms for their daily dose of laughter. Memes allow users to express their sense of self, by sharing, tweeting and retweeting, users can relate to one another without physically communicating. Reddit and YouTube too publish memes, allowing for a wider circulation to occur. Memes are basically inescapable in the Digital Age. Memes allow communication to become “simplified” more so than already (Gerbaudo 2016).

I will require both qualitative and quantitative data in order to fully research this topic. This methodology will give my research project breadth and will assist in answering my question. As I conduct my research, I will acknowledge and respect the ethical standards put forward by the university. Through surveying fellow students from campus, I will be able to gather the necessary information most relevant to the age group of eighteen to twenty five. Those involved will also have the option of anonymity if they wish.

I look forward to delving further into this topic and hopefully uncover new memes as I go! 


Tweet me your favourite memes @sophemacy



  • Davison. P 2012,‘The Language of Internet Memes’, The Social Media Reader, edited by Michael Mandiberg, NYU Press,  pp. 120–134, <> Viewed 10 March 2017
  • Ejaz. A 2016, ‘Are Internet Memes a New Form of Literature?’, Quillete, 28 November, < > viewed on 10 March 2017
  • Haldermann. J 2014, ‘A brief history of pictograms and ideograms’, Spicy Learning Blog, 11 November, <> viewed on 10 March 2017
  • How memes create social and political change, 2016, MP3, Chips with Everything: The Guardian, presented by Leigh Alexander with Elena Cresci and produced by Matt Shore, commentary from Paulo Gerbaudo and Joel Penney, United Kingdom.
  • Knobel. M, Lankshear. C 2007, ‘Chapter 9: Online Memes, Affinities, and Cultural Production’, A New Literacies Sampler, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, U.S, vol. 29, pp.199-227, viewed 10 March 2017.
  • Siemens. G 2005, ‘Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age’, pp.1-8, <> viewed 10 March 2017
  • Thelwall. M, Shifman. L 2009, ‘Assessing Global Diffusion with Web Memetics: The Spread and Evolution of a Popular Joke’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 1, pp. 1-4.
  • Zittrain. JL 2008, ‘The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It’, Yale University Press & Penguin UK, pp. 1-10, viewed 9 March 2017.



  1. Janskishimanshi via Reddit 2017, Whomst, image, Daily Dot, viewed 11 March 2017 <>
  2. Skinkbaa via Reddit 2017, Trump’s Execuive Order, image, Daily Dot, viewed 11 March 2017 <>
  3. Unknown 2017, Definition of Meme, image; screenshot, Google, viewed 10 March 2017 <

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s