The intellectual Renaissance of memes

From primitive tribes to political parties, factions and conflicts are integral to society. A substantial amount of human progress and motivation comes from trying to outdo others, whether they are a friend or a foreign nation. The primary cause for all this stems from influential ideas – memes.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Western Sydney

While memes in the age of the internet often consist of witty images and remarks, they can appear in a myriad of shapes and styles. In essence, a meme is a type of idea that spreads to different people or groups; a germ that holds thoughts instead of disease. Memes are those ideas that are meant to reach out to others beside the creator. Just like bacteria, they can mutate or change form, potentially making them more or less effective. The weaker ones die off, overshadowed by the more powerful ones.

A meme can be identified in almost every dispute. One side has a particular set of beliefs that they want to convince others of, whilst the opposition holds different ideas. If the argument is only between two people, there is not much room for the meme to grow. But when the issue is on a larger scale, there can be a vast array of viewpoints on the same side.

L.H.O.O.Q. by Duchamp

While conflict has historically been the primary source of memes, a relatively new form has emerged that is not specifically targeted. Most internet memes are meant to appeal to a large audience as opposed to a very specific group.

The first major example of these memes came from the Dada art movement. Dadaists created artwork that rejected traditional aesthetic, causing some to label it as “anti-art”. Perhaps as significant as the art was the spread of their movement through events and art publications. Dadaism criticized early 20th century society in a similar way as to how modern memes discuss issues of abortion or gun control. Additionally, the jocular nature of internet memes can be found in Dada art. Whether it is Duchamp’s painting of the Mona Lisa with a moustache, a urinal lying on its back, or Cut with the Dada Kitchen Knife through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch in Germany, Dada is not supposed to be analyzed like other art, just as how the ubiquitous internet meme is not meant to be as serious as other ideas.

As technology and the internet grows, memes will continue to evolve and infect more people. Although the future may be filled with seemingly pointless memes, it is a sign that society as a whole is coming together.

Written by Johny Tran

Johny is a person, maybe.

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