KNOW YOUR MEME AND THE HOMOGENIZATION OF WEB HISTORY
Keywords:memes, historiography, Web history, Know Your Meme, research methods
AbstractKnow Your Meme (KYM) is a website devoted to compiling histories, definitions, and examples of internet memes. In the last decade, KYM has become popular among researchers, educators, and day-to-day Web users to understand memes and their meanings. As a result, it has become instrumental in establishing dominant histories of memes on the Web. This paper uses a discursive interface analysis of the KYM website along with the examples of Pepe the Frog, OK Boomer, and niche Facebook meme groups to demonstrate how the website constructs itself as a cultural authority to define and classify memes, and that an overreliance on KYM can have significant stakes. It may overlook entire uses of the meme, potentially downplay harmful ideologies, and generally imply the possibility for a meme to have a single primary meaning. I argue that an overreliance on KYM without acknowledging its limitations tends to overlook the essential plurality of the Web and instead implies a singular history of memes as an element of internet culture. However, KYM can still be a useful resource and to that end, ultimately, I conclude that we should move toward defining KYM as, “a curated collection of user-submitted meme instances and partially crowdsourced definitions.” While KYM is undeniably a useful resource, it is important that those of us who study the histories of the Web are mindful about how we lean upon this particular website and situate it within our work.
How to Cite
Pettis, B. (2021). KNOW YOUR MEME AND THE HOMOGENIZATION OF WEB HISTORY. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12009