Mid-Atlantic Popular &
American Culture Association

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Ambivalence in the Memespace: User Perceptions of Gun Control Memes as Discursive Tools for Civic Engagement


Internet memes about controversial issues like gun control take up a significant portion of online discourses in digital public spheres. However, existing literature on memes has yet to discern how useful these memes are as discursive objects. This project investigates social media users’ perspectives on meme use and reveals a user ambivalence regarding memes’ utility as effective tools for civic engagement. Focus groups and online questionnaires with college students reveal social media users’ mixed feelings on gun control memes’ utility as civic engagement aids. While memes about gun control can support civic engagement practices by encouraging deeper thought and sparking conversation, participants also indicated that memes can contribute to political echo chambers or violate online etiquette. This study adds important perspective to the study of memes as democratic objects and fills gaps in the existing literature on how social media users perceive memes as they relate to the public sphere.

Presentation type: 
Scheduled on: 
Friday, November 9, 11:00 am to 12:15 pm

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