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16th November 2022: Erhan Aslan

16th November 2022 (Week 7 of term)Erhan Aslan, University of Reading (In-person event in Room 3.62, JP Building)

Title: Playfully serious: Multimodal insights into the COVID-19 online memescape

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our social and professional practices at a time of radical uncertainty and increased online communication. During the early stages of the pandemic, dozens of internet memes were circulated online as a form of digital response to the pandemic. Internet memes are a popular digital genre by which ordinary people interpret, express, and propagate ideas and meanings derived from viral events (Milner, 2013; Shifman, 2014). While many internet memes have humorous purposes, such as LOLcats (Miltner, 2014) and advice animals (Dynel, 2016), others are politically oriented and provoke a shift in collective discourse through the expression of public opinions and political activism (Bayerl and Stoynov, 2016). In this talk, drawing on Knobel and Lankshear’s (2007) meme typology and basic pragmatic notions such as, incongruity, im/explicitness, and shared knowledge, I will first present quarantine memes as “absurdist humour” to shed light on the creative juxtapositions of images and texts with a focus on experiences during lockdowns. Next, I will discuss memes that have “social commentary” purposes highlighting links between COVID-19 and discourses of inequality. Doing so, I will demonstrate the complex intertextual and multimodal play that mediates the participatory digital discursive arena of the pandemic.


Bayerl, Petra Saskia and Lachezar Stoynov. 2016. “Revenge by photoshop: Memefying police acts in the public dialogue about injustice.” New Media & Society 18 (6):1006-1026. doi: 10.1177/1461444814554747

Dynel, Marta. 2016. ““I has seen image macros!” Advice animal memes as visual-verbal jokes.” International Journal of Communication 10: 660-688. Retrieved from

Milner, Ryan. 2013. “Pop polyvocality: Internet memes, public participation, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.” International Journal of Communication 7: 2357-2390. Retrieved from

Miltner, Kate. M. 2014. “There’s no place for lulz on LOLCats”: The role of genre, gender, and group identity in the interpretation and enjoyment of an Internet meme. First Monday, 19(8).

Knobel, Michelle and Colin Lankshear. 2007. “Online memes, affinities, and cultural production.” In A New Literacies Sampler edited by Michelle Knobel and Colin Lankshear. 199-229. Peter Lang: New York.

Shifman, Limor. 2014. Memes in Digital Culture. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

This seminar will be hybrid although we encourage you to attend in person. To join online click here.