Pratt Institute School of Design

Memes as Political Discourse
Hiral Jayesh Parekh
Memes are those “units of culture and behavior” that are shared and remixed over time in a community. Breaking pluralistic ignorance, they give rise to an avenue for self-expression which provides ordinary people the ability to bring attention to causes they believe in. “Memes are the newest trending tool shaping political contention today.” Thanks to their subversive nature, memes possess the power to influence the impressionable first-time voters in any way desired. Perhaps the time has come to interpret their relevance and existence in U.S. politics critically.

Thesis Overview
This talks about the journey of memes as political discourse. Lack of authorship and the presence of anonymity in memes provides power to the people on the underside of power to protest for their political beliefs. This may influence voters by misinformation but may also generate more interest among them.
To explore the influence of chain communication and memes, I made the class play Chain Tag. The time to tag one person initially is cut down immensely when it’s a chain of 4-5 people. This chain works faster since it’s a team and its reach has now increased. Similarly, memes provide a democratic avenue for polyvocal discourse.

Team Effort
Memes work similarly to this open-ended network of knots. Each knot tied, symbolizes the number of memes, the length signifies the power of memes and the different materials symbolize the increasing scale of their impact. This chain is a team effort depicting the collaborative and interpretative nature of memes.
No Authorship
Memes are created, copied, and shared by hundreds of people every day. What does it mean to own then? Although the content of a book belongs to the author, once I have read it, I own that knowledge. This talks about the concept of multiple ownership or rather no ownership.
The way milk dissolves in water immediately, in the same way, memes spread spontaneously. And what makes them so spontaneous? Jokes!! They are among the cheapest goods we all have access to. They are contagious, even if their intention is deadly serious. That's how memes are.
No authorship = anonymity. Creating a fake Instagram account embodying author Michel Foucault and using his quotes to express his opinion on the usage of memes in digital culture via multiple meme stories, gained a lot of traction. This shows how memes on social media make self-expression so easy and influential.
Capstone - Off The Record
This is a prototype for an app geared for teenagers, introducing an Off the Record mode in Snapchat. The teenagers can go anonymous using political meme-faced filters to freely express their political beliefs. This feature will showcase the relevance and evolution of memes in U.S. politics while also being a conversation starter.