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Keywords:

  • digital culture;
  • imitation;
  • Internet memes;
  • “Leave Britney alone”;
  • memes;
  • user-generated-content;
  • YouTube

Abstract

This paper re-examines the concept of “meme” in the context of digital culture. Defined as cultural units that spread from person to person, memes were debated long before the digital era. Yet the Internet turned the spread of memes into a highly visible practice, and the term has become an integral part of the netizen vernacular. After evaluating the promises and pitfalls of memes for understanding digital culture, I address the problem of defining memes by charting a communication-oriented typology of 3 memetic dimensions: content, form, and stance. To illustrate the utility of the typology, I apply it to analyze the video meme “Leave Britney Alone.” Finally, I chart possible paths for further meme-oriented analysis of digital content.