meme machine

The Obama meme machine. Not impressed? There is little doubt that Barack Obama’s unique relationship to popular culture contributed to the mystique of Obama as brand and marketing phenomenon like no other, completely masking the reality of the president being an essentially uninteresting figure. Obama campaign memes seemed fairly innocuous, but they tended to gives dominant social groups the pretense of voice to the micro-electorates that gave Obama the edge. An authoritative voice that rode the broadband rails; this phenomenon of memes, easy to produce and engage with , is now one of the basics in the ways we communicate on the internet, quickly building or creating new perceptions and forms of consensus building that the GOP could not really understand: how up could be made to seem down and how reality could be easily distorted. It’s very much in the Henry Jenkins theory of if it doesn’t spread its dead….

—President Barack Obama jokingly mimics U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” look while greeting members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams in the Oval Office, Nov. 15, 2012. Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President, and Savannah Vinsant laugh at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)—Read More:

(see link at end)…When meeting Obama, 51, in the Oval Office, Maroney kidded around with the Commander-in-Chief and got him to mimic her “not impressed” expression that was all the rage this summer during the London Games.PHOTOS: How the Obama family is just like Us
…”Did I just do the Not Impressed face with the President . . . ?” Maroney tweeted to her 481,000 Twitter followers. Later, the White House posted photographic proof to their Flickr page that Obama did indeed get in on the fun and impersonate the look the athlete had on her face after receiving the silver medal in the Olympic women’s vault competition August 5.

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—Binders of Women
This week, there’s been an even faster turnaround. On CNN, after the debate, commentators didn’t even mention this line. On twitter, within 20 seconds, it had begun. was registered, @romneysbinder existed, and thousands of mashups were produced overnight. Yesterday, Obama used the phrase “Romnesia,” and within 24 hours there were many mashups being circulated.
Henry described these processes in Convergence Culture as the equivalent of political cartoons. This is a wider use of that approach by grassroots communities.—Read More:

…Not surprisingly, the memes that are most reproduced and have endured the longest  have capture audience imagination through controversial themes or negative commentary such as Obama Joker, which tends to generate even further reproduction. Meme management is now a pillar of Presidential media strategy. A good example is  the “This seat’s taken” meme, the back of  Obama’s chair accompanied by the caption ; it spread quickly from the margin to mainstream to the benefit of Obama; it’s very much psych-ops technique onto these platforms but its effectiveness means even more attention as politics moves forward. That is, at the outer limit, its disinformation techniques that exercises a certain power over the masses through a diversion of attention from real problems through “binders of women,” “Romnesia” and so on…


(see link at end)…In keeping with the current election-year rhetoric, many of the Romney binders relied upon existing internet memes in order to make their political points, ranging from The Most Interesting Man in the World to a revival of the “texts from Hillary” meme (via That Wren Girl) and even a riff on the Ryan Gosling meme (borrowed from MoveOn’s Facebook page). Many other posts from the Binders Full of Women Tumblr use images of recognizable celebrities in order to mock Romney or tie his comments to misogynistic aspects of contemporary culture. In one image, Romney’s comments are aligned with Hugh Hefner and in another with John Cusack, and in probably my favorite, with the movie Dirty Dancing. Although these posts may not constitute an entirely politically coherent response to Romney’s remarks, they do help to make visible Romney’s lack of concern for a number of women’s issues (including his non-answer on the Lily Ledbetter question). Further, because of the popular culture associations–with TV, film, and other internet memes–many of these political expressions are instantly accessible.

In addition, these images help to reinforce the idea that the 2012 election’s media format is that of the image macro, a picture superimposed with text, usually with humorous intentions. If 2008 was the “YouTube election,” then it might seem odd that static images would make such a comeback, but I think there are a few reasons that this is happening. First, the role of Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook in this election eclipses what was happening in 2008. More people are sharing political information than before, and thanks to Twitter’s associations with micro-celebrity, more people are attempting to create clever responses to debates and other political events in order to achieve (very) temporary fame–a tendency that The Onion beautifully satirtized in a post anticipating the second debate. Second, image macros are more instantly accessible than video mashups, even while using some of the same principles of montage and associative editing that Richard Edwards and I discussed in our article on some of the more popular mashups from 2008, including “Vote Different.” Image macros are fleeting; they can be viewed more easily than videos. Richard and I argued that mashups created meaning through the clash (or meshing) of popular and political culture imagery, and most image macros follow this same logic. More crucially, they have a much lower barrier to entry in terms of their production in that virtually anyone can go to a Meme Generator site, post or (more likely) borrow an image, and then add the necessary text to create their contribution to a meme. Video editing, on the other hand, requires a much more significant investment of time on the part of the creator. Read More:

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