Three Perspectives on Self-Care... In a Zine!
November 29, 2019
Building Community Through Memes:
This work seeks to explore the the ways in which the alternative medium of intersectional-feminist memes help to form online subaltern communities, and how engaging with them can become a form of self care.
This section of the zine includes original content (memes) created by me and some of my online friends around the topic of memes as community building blocks and as a site for self care. In this project I explore the role memes play in forming online subaltern communities around shared ideologies and mutual support. A key focus for my research was in analyzing my experience in the alternative-memeing community while seeking to contrast the myth of us (Couldry). According to media theorist Nick Couldry, the myth of us forms from the purportedly false sense of community and short-term expressive collectivity social media sites build, which contribute to the production of their economic value (Couldry 608). While I agree that online community should not be a sole substitute for in-person human interaction, I believe that these communities can be genuine and help people (like me) feel less isolated.
Recently, some of the memers in my community organized a live meme art show. This involved memers getting together and forming an in-person community event, which their followers were invited to attend (McCrory). This was an opportunity for people to connect face-to-face, share original artworks, and expand the genuine communities formed online into their offline lives. The formation of such subaltern communities is essential under the alienating reality of capitalism. People feel increasingly isolated while self-care tactics are packaged and sold back to use - buy this face mask! Try retail therapy! By creatively expressing ourselves and building community online through alternative memes, we are better able to cope with the crushing weight of capitalism and can turn to these networks for support.
Media theorist Linda Jean Kenix helps us begin to formulate an understanding of what makes media alternative. Kenix demonstrates that alternative and mainstream media exist within a spectrum and may change in standing based on the time or context in which they are viewed. One common criteria for alternative media is its democratic or participatory nature (Kenix); this concept can be applied to our understanding of how internet memes and meme pages represent a form of alternative media. Anyone with a device capable of accessing the internet can view and share memes. They can be made in free programs like MS Paint, specialized design programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, or in any number of meme-generator apps. This democratization of media creation is significant when thinking about alternative media, because power relations are always at play within society and shape dominant discourses (Brock). Zines, like memes, are relatively easy to make and have very low associated costs. This makes zines a prime form of alternative media, allowing people to self-publish and share independently-produced media on a local scale. These typically express ideas falling outside of dominant discourses (potentially expanded to online communities connected by interest and identity by scanning and uploading them onto the internet).
One of the key characteristics of memes is that they invite endlessly reciprocal participation in their creation (Kenix); they demand to be made and remade, endlessly remixed to present any number of ideas. By presenting memes in a zine, we are reclaiming the personal expressive nature of this format by taking it out of the vast and anonymous internet sphere and representing them in a very small-scale medium that is shared peer-to-peer. Creating this work has been an act of self care, perhaps for our audience reading it will be too.
Brock, Deborah. “Thinking about Power: Exploring Theories of Domination and Governance,” from Power and Everyday Practices. 2011. pp. 11-31.
Couldry, Nick. “The Myth of ‘Us’: Digital Networks, Political Change and the Production of Collectivity.” Information, Communication & Society, vol. 18, no. 6, 2015, pp. 608–626., doi:10.1080/1369118x.2014.979216.
Develle, Yuji. “The Power of the Meme - An Alternative Reading of History.” Medium, Wonk Bridge, 31 May 2017, https://medium.com/wonk-bridge/the-power-of-the-meme-an-alternative-reading-of-histo ry-3b6665cd0268.
Fournier, Lauren. “Self Care for Skeptics,” “The Feeling Body.” Self Care for Skeptics, 25 July 2015, files.cargocollective.com/604927/SCFS_Zine_Final_Digital_Version.pdf.
Kenix, Linda Jean. “The Modern Media Continuum,” in Alternative and Mainstream Media: The Converging Spectrum, 2011. pp. 17–39.
McCrory, Amy. “A Meme Art Show? Translating a Digital Form to I.R.L.” Medium, Medium, 25 Nov. 2019, https://medium.com/@amymccrory14/a-meme-art-show-translating-a-digital-form-to-i-r- l-ae09d8027388.