Memes and their impact on digital online communities

To learn more about this work, visit our humor-computer interaction blog - bits & giggles.

Memes and Absurd Humor HCI research

Memes, often humorous viral forms of communication shared online, are increasingly a mode of communication for users in social digital spaces. A meme, often taking the form of an image coupled with text, can communicate a great deal of information quickly to a viewer.

Despite their influence and prevalence, there is surprisingly little research on memes, or the culture that fuels their production and dissemination. The motivation for creating memes, meme workflow, and the psycho-emotional impact that memes have on viewers, are all lines of inquiry I am exploring with my team of advisors and fellow students at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. 

My research is especially concerned with absurd humor memes, of which there was well documented uptick during the 2016 presidential campaign. Perhaps most interestingly, the same absurd humor memes were used on both liberal and conservative politically-oriented Facebook pages and groups. Our on-going studies will provide fundamental insights in many areas related to absurd humor memes, including their expressive role in contentious times, ways in which political ideology might affect perceptions of satire and absurd humor, all while filling out our understanding of the motivations for meme creation.