Ryan Milner (and others) on Protest Memes

August 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Smart discussion of visual memes over at Fast Company today, made even smarter with the inclusion of one Ryan M. Milner, my co-author and collaborator guy who has written very interesting things on the subject and in this article both comments on the “hands up don’t shoot” image(s) surrounding the Mike Brown Ferguson shooting and gestures towards his work with and around participatory engagement surrounding Occupy Wall Street. That was a long sentence! Fast Company writer Sarah Kessler does a nice job historicizing the subject, noting that:

The idea of visual memes–units of culture passed between people who make it their own as they go–being used for social movements is not new. A black power salute, a peace sign, and a Nazi salute are all visual shorthand for bigger ideas. Our brains have more space devoted to vision than to any other sense; images pack a punch, and they have been used by social movements from the French revolution to gay rights campaigns to send a message.

So visual images aren’t new, but the ways in which they are transmitted –and remixed, and reappropriated– are. “Because of our participatory media tools,” Milner explains, “because of increased conversation, that image is less static. That kind of iconic image of a protest, of an event, is in everyone’s hands.”

Note that this is a discussion of memes in a broader cultural –as opposed to narrow internet culture/ROFLculture– sense, which is one of the things Ryan’s work does so very nicely and is why everyone should read him, shameless co-author plug, deal with it.


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