On the Language of Internet Memes

an arts-based educational research dissertation in arts & visual culture education

Category: Phase I [Researcher as Student]

Internet Memes: What if we’re not just gags and we’re actually meaningful visual culture artifacts?

A visual essay composed of Image Macros reflecting on their perceived role as the quintessence of throwaway culture and the possibility of transcending it.

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PDF: Internet Memes Not Just Gags

Art Crit & GIFs

A series of animated GIFs that samples pieces of contemporary art and remixes them with critical theory to explore notions of stagnation and elitism in what is otherwise meant to be understood as socially engaged discourse and art production.The individual pieces of digital content that make up Art Crit and GIFs were disseminated through social media in hopes of infiltrating public discourse around topics like Occupy Wall Street and religious iconography all the while incorporating contemporary aesthetics into the ongoing conversations.. I presented a poster and spoke briefly about it at Wikepedia Academy 2012:


Wikipedia Academy – Lightning Talks from Wikimedia Deutschland on Vimeo.






Annotated Bibliography

1. Error, the Unforeseen, and the Emergent: The Error and Interactive Media Art


Barker, Tim (Oct. 2007) “Error, the Unforeseen, and the Emergent: The Error and Interactive Media Art,” M/C Journal, 10(5). Retrieved 21 Nov. 2012 from <http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0710/03-barker.php>.


Barker looks into the practice of glitch art through several theoretical models including Lev Manovich’s model for communication in a post-digital culture which reinterprets the original Sender-Message-Receiver model into Sender-Software-Message-Software-Receiver; the implication of interjecting software as an active participant in the model is that the software itself will change the message by introducing noise into it. He looks at several glitch-art pieces including:

  •  Glitchbrowser by Dimitre Lima, Iman Morandi, and Ant Scott, which is no longer active but used to be a working internet browser that would automatically glitch the websites it displayed by saturating colors and abstracting their composition.
  • Le Catalogue by Yann Le Guennec, which was a software interface that allowed visitors to browse through a series of art works but always glitching them in random and increasing ways until the images themselves would no longer be viewable.
  • Desert Rain by Blast Theory is a videogame, installation and performance where participants become virtual mercenaries out to locate a target within a digital rendering of Iraq during the first golf war. Here the glitch is present in the form of clumsy and jagged edged graphics as well as sometimes unresponsive controls.

The article concludes with general reflections on the immersive nature of works like these and how the glitches in them allow for participants to become glitches themselves, malfunctioning entities who share a space with the work of art therefore engaging both participant and machine in “process of becoming virtual; they deliberate together, as one system that moves into the field of potential”

Research Question

No specific question is researched in this case, it is mostly a theoretical exploration of the glitch as it is represented and what it represents and makes possible within works of glitch art.




  • Glitches can only occur within open, generative systems.
  • Glitches are unforeseen potentials realized.
  • Malfunction in technology opens up the potential for immersion within open systems as participants are able to become glitching entities themselves.


If the glitch is recognized as unforeseen potential and not simply errors to be avoided, then the glitch can becomes not only an occurrence but also a concept and more importantly a strategy. Of course an Arts Based Educational Project (ABER) called Literacy of the Glitch must firs of all acknowledge the potential within the glitch before it can use it to build up a literacy endeavor.

2. Image as Insight: Visual Images in Practice-Based Research


Marshall, Julia (2007) Image as Insight: Visual Images in Practice-Based Research, Studies in Art Education, 49:1, 23-41


Marshall explores how is it exactly that the production of images, visual objects and visual experiences are t synthesis and meaningful understanding of concepts and information in order to put forth new insights and transform perceptions. She conducts this exploration through and interdisciplinary approach combining cognitive science, metaphor theory and the sociocultural theory of mind.

Research Question

How does learning occur through imagemaking?


Compares and contrasts  multidisciplinary theories of learning, vision and image making.


A theory is developed around the central premise that “clarity and meaning are engendered when ideas, concepts, or information is transformed into visual images, objects, or visual experiences.


The question is central to Arts Based Research, since it can be restated as how can knowledge be created through artistic production? And within that question lies one of the core notions that can justify ABER as throughly significant and meaningful in the advancement of human knowledge. Likewise, Literacy of the Glitch takes the form of seven glitch portraits that synthesize a great deal of information and research in the hope that ideas, concepts and insights are engendered in the visitors to the site.

3. Geek Chic : Machine Aesthetics, Digital Gaming, and the Cultural Politics of the Case Mod


Simon, Bart (2007) Geek Chic : Machine Aesthetics, Digital Gaming, and the Cultural Politics of the Case Mod, Games and Culture, 2:175, 175-193


Simon looks into the phenomenon of case-modding (the practice of modifying computer cases to reveal their material guts) engaged by many videogame enthusiasts (gamers) and contrasts it with the dominant culture’s desires for “a world in which information technology performs seamlessly within the fabric of everyday life.” He further explores the aesthetics associated and produced by case modding within the social context of LAN parties where gamers come together to share not only videogames but also modified hardware that ultimately becomes “as much of a spectacle as the games on the screen.”

Research questions

What does putting the genuine needs and desires of human users first mean in a culture dominated by the fantasy of escaping the vicissitudes of our organic bodies?
What are the cultural politics of a design aesthetic that privileges the human desire to transcend the human condition?


Theoretical explorations of the mainstream’s culture attitude toward technology and design; and observational regarding the phenomenon of case modding within the social context of LAN parties.


Simon finds in the aesthetics of case modding an authentic alternative to the simulated transparency of designs like the translucent IMac case of a few years ago. He argues that even in those cases all the user was expected to do was sill look at even more casings (the interior ones). On the other hand, the cases that haver been modified by gamers for LAN parties not only are done so for the express purpose of having access to the inner workings of the machines but they also bare the marks of hands and fingers rearranging the innards. He also makes reference to the ethics of transparency found in the social spheres shared by case modders be out online or on real life, the transparency of their cases is echoed by a transparency in their methods and process of modification.


The argument for case modding as an ethical stance regarding mainstream’s notion on seamless and invisible technological design is an interesting one, with plenty of implications for DIY and hacking practices. Since Literacy of the Glitch is attempting to build a case for the glitch as a revelatory agent itself, the extrapolation is quite organic.

4. A dialogue in words and images between two artists doing Arts-Based Educational Research


Quinn, R. D., & Calkin, J. (2008). A dialogue in words and images between two artists doing Arts-Based Educational Research. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 9(5). Retrieved 16 Sep. 2012 from http://www.ijea.org/v9n5/


Quinn and Calkin analyze Calkin’s doctoral dissertation research as it developed through an ongoing dialogue by applying Barone and Eisner’s (1997) seven features of ABER. They propose the concept and practice of Research-Based Art (RBA) by shifting “emphasis from linguistic to non-linguistic ways of representing what it is that we come to know about our world.” Finally they compare and contrast their own notion of RBA with what Barone and Eisner proposed as ABER.

Research question

How does ABER relate specifically to using the visual arts in research?


Theoretical analysis of Calkin’s doctoral research as it related to ABER. Calkin’s doctoral research was action-based conducted through a collaboration with a science teacher as they tried to integrate drawing and painting into the science in ways that enhanced student learning.


  • “In collaborating with one another, researcher-artists can see ways that their art doesn’t work – that is, unintended interpretations that distract from the message they want to share in the piece.”
  • Considerations of medium need to extent to notions of dissemination (b&w v. color/ ink v. pencil/ etc.)
  • In conducting ABER and/or RBA art history needs to be considered but only to a certain extent as it might become too intimidating for researchers not completely comfortable as art practitioners.


Although their findings are somewhat obvious, their proposed concept of RBA can have some powerful implications into the practice of ABER. Literacy of the Glitch takes the RBA concept and stretches it a bit further into Art as response to research; instead of employing research as foundations, it employs it as a jumping-off point.


5. Glitch in the Machine


Vrbančić, Mario (2010): Glitch in the Machine, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, 15:2, 110-117


Vrbančić characterizes misreadings as being capable of to infuse even the most horrendous of situations with humor; he purposely misreads Bergson’s assertions about the human body being machine-like in order to understand with a modicum of humor the collection of mis’s (misreadings, misfirings, misunderstandings, etc) that set the stage for tragedies like the holocaust to occur. He focuses his analysis on “Agamben’s The Remnants of Auschwitz (1999) and compare(s) his (Agamben’s) analysis of ‘testimony’ to such a horrible event with a presentation of life in Auschwitz, and what happened there, as depicted in the play KAMP performed by the theatre group Hotel Modern.”

Research question

“What is the horrible laughter vibrating through Agamben’s structure, if not old-fashioned Evil, if not the demonic diminishment and deconstruction of any meaning?” or   Under what circumstances can humor coincide with horror?


Theoretical analysis through purposeful misreadings.


Misreadings, misinterpretations, mis’s in general allow for new insights into otherwise stale and ossified topics.


The idea that a collection of “mis’s” can lead to insight is a powerful but dangerous one. As far as Literacy of the Glitch goes, it could be argued that in order to understand this potential in mis’ing (erring, glitching) some basic understanding, literacy on error itself is required.

Image as Insight: Visual Images in Practice-Based Research

Marshall, Julia (2007) Image as Insight: Visual Images in Practice-Based Research, Studies in Art Education, 49:1, 23-41

Glitch: designing imperfection

Moradi, I. (2009). Glitch: designing imperfection. New York: Mark Batty Publisher.

Cracked media: the sound of malfunction

Kelly, C. (2009). Cracked media: the sound of malfunction. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Error: glitch, noise, and jam in new media cultures

Nunes, M. (2011). Error: glitch, noise, and jam in new media cultures. New York: Continuum.

Noise channels: glitch and error in digital culture

Krapp, P. (2011). Noise channels: glitch and error in digital culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

The Glitch Moment(um)

Menkman, R. (2011). The glitch moment(um). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Geek Chic : Machine Aesthetics, Digital Gaming, and the Cultural Politics of the Case Mod

Simon, Bart (2007) Geek Chic : Machine Aesthetics, Digital Gaming, and the Cultural Politics of the Case Mod, Games and Culture, 2:175, 175-193