The concept of "the classroom" is one that has significantly changed for many people in recent months. In this post I use the term "the classroom" to refer to any space (physical, virtual, and otherwise) which involves (un)intentional forms of learning and pedagogical work.

What is/where is/who is "the classroom" to you? Is "the classroom" a useful term to use or is it one that doesn't fully encompass the types of learning and pedagogical work experiences that are typical to you? Maybe consider drawing or visually depicting a "classroom" that you know or work with(in). What does the visual you've produced represent, how, and why? How might you want "the classroom" that you experience and/or co-create to be different in the future?

Following on from some great conversations that we had yesterday I wanted to bring some of the themes, ideas, and questions discussed together in this post. Here are some questions and prompts that may be helpful to use as part of pedagogical work that incorporates discussion, creation, and analysis of memes, GIFs, and digital remix culture:

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  • What is a meme, GIF, or digital remix culture (to you)?
  • Tell me about (and/or draw/depict) a memorable meme, GIF, or example of digital remix culture? Do you know about its origin history? If so, or if not, how does knowing, or not knowing about this, shape your understanding and interpretation of the meme?
  • In what ways do memes, GIFs, and types of digital remix culture contribute to forms of harm and oppression?
  • How do memes, GIFs, and digital remix culture impact different people in different ways (including people depicted in such content)?
  • What shapes the various ways that people interpret memes, GIFs, and digital remix culture?
  • Choose two memes of your choice and critically reflect on the meanings and messages that may be associated with them/ascribed to them/encoded in them.
  • Tell me about the origin history of a meme.
  • (How) Is a meme or GIF different to other types of "texts"?
  • Tell me a bit about your understanding and experience of viral culture?
  • Describe this meme or identify and describe a meme of your choice. How does the language used to describe the meme influence the way that the meme may be understood?

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Today I've spent a bit of time on the "AI meme generator" that we discussed yesterday: https://imgflip.com/ai-meme  (check it out when you get the chance if you haven't already!)

I've been thinking about how analysing the limited image options used for this "AI meme generator" can be a pedagogical activity. The image options and various interpretations of them may reveal something about the relationship between pop and viral culture, race, gender, Blackness, global media flows, and generational dynamics. In "the classroom" consider if/how the "AI meme generator" is potentially raced, gendered, classed etc.

In other words, another possible pedagogical activity that relates to memes is encouraging people to critically engage with and analyse the design of this "AI meme generator" and how the pre-selected image options to choose from are illustrative of certain issues concerning digital remix culture and structural oppression and inequalities.

Yesterday we had some helpful conversations about the role of language and written descriptions in how images are interpreted. For example, if a meme features several people in it but is typically described in a way that refers to only one person in that image, this can shape how the meme may be understood and whose point of view in the meme is foregrounded. One example of this is a meme we discussed yesterday which has often been referred to as "the distracted boyfriend" meme and has also sometimes been referred to as "the jealous girlfriend" meme. These different descriptions may shape how issues related to gender, sexuality, relationships, and power dynamics are (or are not) considered and assumed as part of how people engage with that meme.

All too commonly people make assumptions about the identities of individuals depicted in memes so as part of pedagogical work related to this it is good to encourage people to critically reflect on the often limited extent to which they can fairly, ethically, and accurately describe a person featured in a meme.

Something we've mentioned before in this course and will continue to mention is that even when focusing on the role of visuals in communication it is vital to be equally aware of how other types of texts and language (including written and spoken) are entwined with visual images and dialogues.

Thanks for reading. Looking forward to ongoing conversations about memes, GIFs, digital remix culture, and "the classroom!"

The top half of the image depicts the character Winnie the Pooh sitting in a chair, looking relatively despondent, and features the words "starting a new project". The bottom half of the image depicts the character Winnie the Pooh wearing a tuxedo, sitting in a chair, and looking fairly perplexed and possibly pleased. The bottom image also features the words "making a meme".