Meme War at Open Intelligence Lab (OILab) Workshop

Open Intelligence Lab (OILab) Workshop:
Digital methods and “deep vernacular web research” – particularly around internet political subcultures.

 

Based on a pedagogy developed over the course of several graduate new media seminars at the University of Amsterdam, the workshop introduces tools and techniques developed by researchers affiliated with OILab and Digital Methods for studying what we refer to as “the deep vernacular web” of anonymous and pseudonymous web forums. In the course of the workshop participants will have the opportunity to contribute to some basic original research specifically focussing on 4chan and on Reddit. Together we will look at how online subcultures use in-group slang as well as “ironic” memes as a means by which constitute themselves as issue publics, focussing in particular on how it is that they imagine their antagonists as well as themselves as political collectives.

 

It will take place on campus and will be a full day starting at 10am and finishing around 4pm. You will learn a variety of tools within this research framework, including Google BigQuery, RAWGraphs and DMI’s bespoke RankFlow.

 

If you would like to participate in the workshop, you can sign up here: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/cim/events/oilab-workshop-registration

 

A public talk will precede the workshop the evening before –  It is recommended if you plan to participate in the workshop that you also attend the public talk:

 

OILab, ‘Teh internet is serious business: on anons, normieification and neo-reactionary memes’,
Monday 11th of February, 17:00-18:30
Room: OC1.06

 

At the fringes of an increasingly hegemonic platform economy, there exists another anarchic web of anonymous and pseudonymous forums that plays host to subcultures whose mantra that “the internet is serious business” harkens back to 90’s cyber-culture when it was said that “online nobody knows you’re a dog”. Whilst supposedly devoted to an ironic spirit of play, in recent years forums such as 4chan have become entangled the growing movement of reactionary right culture online. This talk considers the emergence of these serious political movements out of this milieu. As memetic antagonisms and other forms of extreme vernacular speech have seemingly become normalized on various social media platforms, our aim is to trace their origins out of what we call “the deep vernacular web,” through capturing, analyzing and interpret the changing and ephemeral artifacts of these subcultures. To this end we will focus in particular on a process of what we call “normiefication”, whereby these artifacts are translated from the subcultural milieus of 4chan, for example, into the mainstream of the Platformized web of social media. While the success of a “meme” has traditionally been seen as a function of its diffusion, the visual network analysis methods that we use take it as axiomatic that “there is no transport without translation”. As such, this talk aims to describe the changing contexts within which the artifacts (and ideas) of reactionary right-wing political subcultures develop and travel as a means by which to hopefully begin to assess their serious political significance. With case studies of political memes like “kekistan,” “pizzagate,” or “(((them)))”, we plan to outline some of the dynamics by which these subcultures constitute their imagined collective self-identity, sets of issues and antagonisms. How is it is that these memes travel, and what are the relationships between their initial anonymous authors, the “normies” (ourselves included), that give them attention?

About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018) and The Sleepwalker's Guide to Social Media (due 2020 with Polity Press). Tony is the organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK (see archive on this blog). As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Tony has been project lead on a number of funded projects that bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach. These activities have included large conferences, symposia and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres, co-organized with community groups and local authorities. Tony occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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