What is a Meme?

Meme, is a word that is no stranger to today’s digital culture. It was first coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. He compared a meme to genes and evolution. It is very similar due to how a gene can imitate itself. Dawkins was inspired by the Greek word Enthymeme, which means an argument in which one premise is not explicitly stated.

Arguments usually have :

  • Major Premise
  • Minor Premise
  • Hidden Premise
  • Conclusion

The classic Enthymeme example is

  1. All men are mortal
  2. Socrates is man
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal

Enthymemes can be persuasive and less persuasive, it helps makes arguments readable.  Often premises are hidden. A hidden premise is not actually stated when an argument is presented. They are not mentioned but assumed. But in order to get to the conclusion. When the hidden premise is verbally expressed it confirms the argument.

Our culture is changing. And just like Enthymemes, memes use premises and a conclusion, but with images. The audience determines the conclusion based on the culture. Depending on the culture or society you are apart of determines if you will understand or can relate to the meme.

Memes help understand digital culture.

Just like this Arthur fist meme:

If you do not know of Arthur then you would not know that this is an image of Arthurs fist. Arthur is a children’s television series. But even though someone may not have ever watched Arthur before you can relate this image to frustration or a specific situation when one has been infuriated. And most of the time this meme is accompanied by words that give a conclusion that this is how you feel.

Memes are participatory, meaning anyone can change it or repackage/remix it in a way they want to and it could eventually go viral!

Here is a Meme that I created.



3 thoughts on “What is a Meme?

  1. Memes are one of those things I can understand for its face value. But going into the major, minor and hidden premises makes it a bit more difficult. It’s always been one of those things I either understand or don’t without actually identifying those. “Oh it came from this event/TV show/phenomena” and “here’s what the current image macro is relating to” are the common understandings I have of them. Enthymeme arguments are so much harder for me to grasp sometimes…

  2. Greg

    I love Arthur, I recognized that aardvark’s fist the second I saw the yellow sweater and blue jeans. Great choice, especially when things in life get so frustrating every now and then, the simple image of an decently kind and innocent character’s fist makes things look intense just to think that sweet little aardvark could break his cool.

    Your own meme was pretty funny, nice play on words with the “askwhole”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *