I am very proud to announce that a research article resulting from the collaboration between my University of Alberta colleague Axel Perez Trujillo and myself has recently been published by the Space and Culture journal. The paper entitled “Colonizing Pepe: Internet Memes as Cyberplaces” explores the phenomenon of the creation and circulation of internet memes through the notion of spatiality in cyberspace. The concepts developed are explored through the case study of the Pepe the Frog meme controversy around the election 2016 American presidential elections.
One of the takeaways of the paper is the idea of analyzing the spatiality of internet memes through three different layers that each provides different perspectives on the power struggle inherent to meme production and circulation.
We isolate three layers of spatiality in our analysis of Pepe the Frog: (1) the contours of the image-meme, (2) the spatial distribution of the platform it occupies, and (3) the spatial relations the meme-frame sustains in regard to netizens’ commentaries (Figure 1). The following figure is a representation of these differing spatial layers that the meme encompasses:
Figure 1. The three layers of the spatiality of Internet memes. Source: Jérémie Pelletier-Gagnon and Axel Pérez Trujillo Diniz (2018).
In the first layer, we represent three image-memes. For example, they could be three different iterations of Pepe the Frog, all of which incorporate significant alterations to the meme, except a particular contour, such as the face of Pepe the Frog. That defining contour is the cohesive component of the meme—what offers its unity and distinguishes from other memes. This first spatial layer is the basis of the meme. In the second layer, we represent the spatial distribution of those image-memes within a single forum. Our study is focused on how Pepe the Frog image-memes are distributed in Twitter under the #savepepe hashtag. Notice how the disposition of image-memes is vertical on the screen. This spatial aspect is central to understanding how Pepe the Frog is a contested site at all three layers. In the third layer, we represent the spatial frame of netizens’ comments and the image-meme within the platform.
While some of the ideas that make this paper were born as part of my Phd research on the spatiality of Japanese arcades, it is my position as primary instructor of the Cyberliterature class at the University of Alberta that truly brought me to look at internet memes as pieces of electronic texts worthy of scholarly attention. I want to express my sincerest thanks to Axel for his invaluable input during the whole writing process and for the great conversation we had on spatiality when thinking the core concepts of this paper. I also want to thanks the student journal The Gateway for reaching out to me for a conversation on the Pepe the Frog controversy in 2017 which truly kindled my curiosity on the matter.
Modern Day Snow-White, Owleo
“The Wolfman”, Erin Kelso
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was introducing a special assignment for the summer version of the course C LIT:243 – Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. The term is almost over, and now is the time to share the works of some of my students with the internet at large.
These stories are meant to be contemporary reinterpretations of classic fairy tales themes, characters or storylines. Student integrated both the themes we analyzed in class, as well as some coding techniques allowing them to join story passages together, create branching paths (either arborescent, axial or networked narratives), as well as integrating some amount of macros and variables. We analyzes a few fairy tales-inspired Twine stories as part the in-class time dedicated to this project, and perhaps these stories could be used by other instructors in classes with a similar interest on interactive reinterpretations of classic fairy tales.
The Big Bad Wolf
Written by Ashley Bray, Breana Walsh and Steeven Jobin
Miss-education of Snow White
Written by Aaron Brown, Todd Pelan and Janina Graham
Hannan Takes New York
Written by Anonymous
Written by Lynsey Stewart and Iliana Pappas
Out of the Cind
Written by Anonymous
I was interviewed by the German fanzine Level UP! editor in chief Mathias Micheel a few months ago, and the interview itself was made available just a few weeks ago. While the interview was conducted in English (and is till available in English on the website), the whole thing was translated in German for publication, which amazes me. Having done a few translations in the past, I know that this is extremely time-consuming.
As for the interview itself, I talk a lot about my current dissertation project, as well as my side projets on JRPGs. I would like to thanks Mathias again for this opportunity, this was very useful for me to once again situate my thoughts on the matter of transcultural video game circulation, and explain the place that text mining might come to play in order to explore some of these issues. Don’t hesitate to take a look if you are interested in any of these things!
Le département de Modern Languages and Cultural Studies m’offre un nouveau cours à enseigner cet été. À première vue, le cours en question ne semble pas tout à fait convenir à mon bagage académique qui est principalement axé autour de la culture japonaise, de la ludologie et des humanités numériques. Exit la littérature électronique de cet automne, bienvenue Cendrillon, le Petit Chaperon Rouge et autres Hansel et Gretel. De juin à juillet j’enseigne C LIT 243: Fairy Tales and Folks Tales.
Jessie Willcox Smith, “Little Red Riding Hood”, 1911
SEGA, “Wonderland Wars”, 2015
L’objectif du cours n’a rien de révolutionnaire. Il s’agit de guider le développement d’une compréhension historique de certains contes de fées chez l’étudiant sous plusieurs axes, mais à travers une approche principalement basée sur relation entre l’auteur, le lecteur et contexte. Nous passerons ainsi des classiques des frères Grimm et de Marie-Jeanne l’Héritier (Ricdin-Ricdon) aux reformulations contemporaines de leurs histoires. En plus de projections d’un ou deux films, nous analyserons quelques œuvres de fiction interactive afin de situer la place des contes de fées aujourd’hui. Donc, beaucoup de lecture, mais aussi beaucoup d’analyse et de discussion en classe.
J’apporte un changement relativement important au déroulement normal de ce cours cet été. À la fin de la session, les étudiants devront remettre une nouvelle interactive codée à l’aide de Twine. L’idée est de permettre aux étudiants de faire la synthèse de leurs acquis à travers une plateforme créative en tant que complément aux autres méthodes d’évaluation traditionnelles (essais, examens et autres). J’ai pu noter dans mon cours précédent que la plupart des étudiants sont très à l’aise face à certaines formes textuelles interactives comme le jeu vidéo. Twine nous permet d’étudier ces principes en passant outre l’apprentissage d’un langage de programmation, ce qui est excellent dans le cadre d’un cours d’été. Éventuellement, je partagerai ces nouvelles sur ce blogue, ou sur une autre plateforme.
The symposium that I have been preparing alongside Prof. Astrid Ensslin is being held today. I am glad that we could set time aside to host this event; many professors and students from around campus are converging to share the status of their research on the topics of storytelling and digital technology. These ranged from reading surveillance systems (Rockwell) to creative use of digital mapping for personal storytelling (Mackey).
You may follow the conversation online on the symposium twitter hashtag:
Thanks to all participants!
I am about to close the books on my very first teaching experience as a principal instructor at the University of Alberta. This Cyberliterature class was a fantastic challenge, a great opportunity to expand my horizons on various forms of electronic literatures, as well as a chance to unpack some of the internet culture that we usually take for granted (memes, rage comics, fan fiction and so on). One of the objectives that I had for this particular incarnation of the class was to create a more culturally diverse corpus that previous years, and I think that the week dedicated to cell phone novels and visual novels worked great in this regard. I also experimented with integrating VR material as a text to be discussed in class, which was difficult a first to get going due to the technical requirements of this technology, but turned out to be well worth it.
Thanks again to the staff in MLCS for their trust and this opportunity.
Just a quick word to share the CFP of an upcoming symposium held at the University of Alberta on digital narratives. I have helped Prof. Astrid Ensslin putting this project together over the past few weeks, and I am looking forward to meet with the greater Albertan digital fiction community in May. Check it out if you are in the area, especially if you are doing research on digital fiction or game studies.
Here is an excerpt from the CFP.
“The University of Alberta, in association with the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS), would like to acknowledge and help further develop this interest by creating the possibility of researchers and students across campus and beyond to join forces and create a scholarly network dedicated to the support and the dissemination of cross-disciplinary research on digital narratives around the world. A first step towards the implementation of this project is a one-day symposium that will bring together researchers from the University of Alberta along with external collaborators, where participants will share their research and ideas through individual or team presentations. The objectives of this event are to identify the University of Alberta’s strengths in the field and possible synergies between research groups, to establish a roadmap for the planning of future events and projects, as well as to investigate the needs and provisions for current and future graduate students in this area.”