Memes as a tool

On: October 23, 2011
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About Mario Gesteira
I have graduated in product design in Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. I've moved to Amsterdam to study New Media.


A very powerful tool would be to be able to release information inside social networks that would go viral and be incorporated to pop culture by becoming a meme. There are many factors that influence the destiny of a piece of information that is released in such an environment.

At first, it is very important to understand how information propagates in this medium. Understanding the flowing and spreading of information in social networks is figuring out how the social relations work in these networks and how people make their choices in this overload mean of information about what to consume and propagate.

Looking to the series of videos and articles from the website Know Your Meme we can have an overview of many cases where a image or a video became a meme and use that data for analysis.

Audience Size vs Relevance

One issue that you have to take into account when analyzing the main vectors of the spread of information on networks is the difference between the number of contacts it has and its real relevance. Studies have proved that the real influential potential of an user isn`t attached to the number of connections he has in the network, there are other factors that  make them important.
To understand which are these factor can be part of understanding what kind of information they are used to publish and why they are more successful in spreading them than others.

The Filter Bubble

The role played by the filter bubble in the way information is transmitted in the online social networks is a major issue. The way it ranks all the information and selects what will appear and what will not appear for one user can have a great impact in the kind of choices this one is going to make.

It can have a major impact in decision making by reinforcing the idea that people are inclined to make the same choices that they think most people are making. By selecting only a part of the total information on the network and showing it. In one hand it can create tendencies in this network and exponentially increase and accelerate the spread of information, but on the other, the information can be trapped in a bubble and never be able to get away.

The Content

Raquel Recuero, in her book Rede Sociais na Internet, states that people transmit information in the social networks according to the value that they perceive in that piece of information. She defines memes in categories depending on how their value is perceived by the the user and says that the kind of meme, its longevity and range is associated with it.

According to Raquel Recuero, when someone is going to publish something in an social network, they don`t think just about that specifically information, but also about how their audience and the network will see it. And this perceived value she call cognitive social capital or relational social capital depending on how it is perceived, and they behave differently, the first one spreads easier across networks, and the second inside one network. This shows also the importance of the content of a meme.

Looking to the series of videos and articles from the website Know Your Meme we can have an overview of many cases where a image or a video became a meme and use that data for analysis. In the video about the case of Numa Numa guy, it becomes clear that a simple repetition of the same idea isn`t enough to start a new meme, it is just a reproduction of an old one and don`t aggregates any value to it. For a meme to really get into people`s head it is important that they get engaged in the meme, and for that they need to perceive some value in it. That means that a meme can`t just be the replication of an idea out of context, it has to be something that aggregates for the discussion.

With all of that in mind, for one to be able to use memes as a spreading tool , one must first know the surrounding environment, so one can replicate the conditions in a controlled space and try to emulate the emerging of a new meme. For this, I propose a creation of a Facebook game app. This is already a stablished kind of app that people are used to play with and would be a totally controlled environment where all the data about how it spread around the network and how engaged people were in it would be easily accessible. With that information, the person would be able to identify who are the main vectors of information in the network near and around.

Repeating this process some times it is possible for someone to discover which is the best way for him to spread information and how. Who are the main vector that he can focus when creating content and how this content should be formatted to have the best performance along its way. This is how the information can get through the creator`s filter bubble.

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