Week 8 Home educating memes 18.03.20
This is quite an odd post , or it feels it. Something odd has happened within the home education community, we have become inundated with them, so I want to discuss imagery and memes.
I have an 18 year old, everything is about the memes for him, personally I am more of a gif kind of girl , but hey they make you laugh, most of my sons I don’t get at all, wrong age I reckon, but some of them, if I get them, are pretty hilarious.
Back to home education, and the home ed community. Something happened, Coronavirus hit, and the community seems to be flooded with home ed memes. It’s a really odd weird , didn’t see it coming, audience of meme lovers. Some of these are pretty funny, some are kind of insensitive (why use this time of fear to essential do an ‘I told you so’ , it seems so unethical) however, I hear from my son thats what makes a good meme !
My son is currently searching out for me “WHY MEMES ARE REALLY ART” for me so I can have a read and be able to critically write about why these memes are important visually, and how they make an impact. A quick search has found the following quote from Alice Bucknell on artsy though, which I thought was interesting – “Memes are the democratizing medium of our collective digital present. Easy to make, easy to share; instantly recognizable and a little nonsensical; a hilarious and at times sickly-sweet jab at the world’s blunders, scandals, protests, and hypocrisies.” (Bucknell 2017) Dawkins says of memes “Memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation,” he wrote. They compete with one another for limited resources: brain time or bandwidth. They compete most of all for attention.” ( Gleick ; 2011)
So here are a selection of some of them. I actually can’t reference a lot of them as they come from private facebook pages, and that would be wrong but if you google homeschool coronavirus memes a lot of these will come up in that search.
1) The aim of the work.
The aim, the dominant reading of this work is two fold, one, it is there to make home educators feel superior, to give us, themselves, a pat on the back, in a humorous way. Two, it is there to show non-home educators that they have infact been wrong all along.
2) Aesthetics, subject matter, technical approach & 3) Research & awareness
I think I can safely say that this meme is not critically informed, there is certainly no evidence that the meme is going to have an impact, or that coronavirus has taken any stigmas ‘down’, and it is about as one sided and bias and opinion as it is possible to hold. Looking purely at the visual part of the image, I think, at least the look of the virus is realistic, NPR SAYS HERE “The word “corona” is Latin for crown. Under a microscope, these viruses look like a circle with spikes ending in little blobs coming off the surface. (NPR 2020) I found an article in THE TIMES OF ISRAEL which says “ The Centers for Disease Control said the virus has been detected in blood and stool specimens, but it is unclear whether it can spread through any bodily fluids” (The times of Israel. 14.03.2020) Both of which , make me as sure as I can be without a medical background, that the illustration above is at least somewhat accurate. As for the text, it juxtaposes the seriousness of the image of coronavirus, with the humour of the message, using emotive language and words such as ‘stigma’ to engage people. In fact , thinking more about it, even the image, with it’s cartoon like appearance, and primary colours seems somewhat comical, even if it is supposed to come across as scientific looking. I would question the accuracies , or good of this meme saying ‘it took down the stigma’ from what I have seen, it is not as if the world is happy their children are being quarantined ! If anything, this could infact make that stigma worse, as people that are now ‘home educating’ (they aren’t by the way but thats a whole other story) will think this quarentine that they are now in, is potentially, what home educated children, have to do all the time.
I think these memes are hard to pin down, on one hand (if we take coronavirus out of this for a second) the text hits on a very important issue in the home ed community, we are constantly questioned, interrogated, even mocked or much more seriously, on occasion, referred to social services because of these socialisation ‘issues’ that non-home-educators perceive. So there is a serious issue here (again taking out the VERY serious issue of coronavirus). However, I can’t help feeling that personally this just isn’t the right time to be doing this, morally, it is just a bit … icky ! This is my oppositional reading, that this is morally reprehensible, people are dying, what is home education issues when it comes to that? However my negotiated reading would be, it works on one level in its preferred dominant reading, it is making home educators laugh, it certainly is making some feel that they should give themselves a pat on the back, and it also probably will make some people rethink their past comments on home education (if indeed, it reaches them , as it is obviously more likely to circulate purely within home educating circles) . There for negotiated reading is, it does it’s intended meaning, but ugh, this is just unpleasant.
Home education / coronavirus memes 2020. facebook.
On the side of ‘are memes art’ I have had a quick look and have found the following articles discussing just this.
The verge article poses the question “Are memes art? PBS’s Idea Channel talks about why memes may actually be one of the premier forms of self-expression.” and links to a you tube video on PBS IDEA CHANNEL Are LOLcats and internet memes art? which I have embedded below. In this video it is stated ”CREATING IMAGES AND SHARING THEM WITH STRANGERS FOR THE PURPOSE OF COMMUNICATING PERSONAL EXPERIENCES? THAT MY FRIENDS, IS ART.” (PBS idea channel ; 2012) and I couldn’t agree more. They are crass, they are weird, they are certainly appropriated, but they are art. He even cracks open some of the best literary thinkers to back up this claim such as Leo Tolstoy describing what art is , and even brings out Aristotle saying that the artist ‘plans and executes an act of catharsis’ , and as it quite rightly pointed out, memes are the epitome of cathartic. The link between memes and pop art, specifically Warhols ‘factory’ has been made many times. In fact, it is one of my sons favourite subjects “CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW MUCH FUN ANDY WARHOL WOUD OF HAD WITH INSTAGRAM AND MEMES MUM?” Kant saying memes can’t count as art because they aren’t ‘beautiful’ ? I think we have covered so far in this MA that art doesn’t have to be beautiful, in fact in The unseen and the overlooked, we discussed the Banal being the new exotic, are memes then the height of exoticism? Interesting Laura Letinsky says “The photograph shows something that can no longer ever exist; the picture is a construction of something that only exists for the moment of the picture.” (Letinsky ; 2004) By this definition memes are art, as they are constructed, and my son assures me if nothing else, that they are only as powerful as they are ephemeral.
Bucknell, Alice. 30.05.2017. What memes owe to art history. Available at https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-memes-owe-art-history (Accessed 18.03.20)
Gleick, James. May 2017. Smithsonian magazine online. What defines a meme. Available at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/what-defines-a-meme-1904778/ (Accessed 18.03.20)
Gold, Tyler. April 2012. The verge. Are memes art? Available at https://www.theverge.com/web/2012/4/12/2944560/are-memes-art-pbs-idea-channel (Accessed 18.03.20)
Letinsky , Laura. ; 2004.
How Does Wuhan Coronavirus Compare With MERS, SARS And The Common Cold? 22.01.20. Npr. Available at https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/01/22/798277557/how-does-wuhan-coronavirus-compare-to-mers-sars-and-the-common-cold?t=1584491473603 (Accessed 18.03.20)
TOI . 14.03.2020. How does the coronavirus enter the body, and what makes it so dangerous? Available at https://www.timesofisrael.com/how-does-the-coronavirus-enter-the-body-and-what-makes-it-so-dangerous/ (Accessed 18.03.20)
FIGURES / VIDEOS
PBS ideas channel you tube. Are memes art. 11.04.2012. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9Zyswk07vg&feature=youtu.be (Accessed 18.03.20)