ENG 806 Annotated Bibliography 3

Katz, Y. & Shifman, L. (2017). Making sense? The structure and meanings of digital memetic nonsense, Information, Communication & Society, 20:6, 825-842, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1291702

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2017.1291702

Katz and Shifman explain that prior to digitization of memes, there were three perspectives of nonsense: pastiche, deconstruction of meaning, and a play with meaning. Pastiche is essentially to imitate for the sake of imitation: “the joy of creating the text derives from the imitation itself, without supplementing any new meaning to the referent” (p. 826). In deconstruction of meaning, “nonsense resists any attempt to reach a clear, synthesized meaning; it examines the ability of signs to create meaning and highlights their failure” (p. 826). Most of the instances of nonsense as play have to do with children and their attempt to create without regard to adult rules. There is another type, though, where there can be so many polysemic meanings that the text appears to be without meaning, or the meaning can appeal to so many disparate people that it appears without sense. The example of “Killroy was here” was given as nonsense that almost appeared as an inside joke.

The digital move has enabled more nonsense. In fact, it might promote it even more. The authors explain that because the digital memes are multimodal and each mode can add to the polysemy, these memes may be even more polysemic than  non-digital memes.

I love this observation: “Almost a decade ago, Miller (2008) pointed out that the connections created in these platforms may be more important than the content of the messages being transmitted. This phatic communication, which aims to verify that the channel of transmission is open (Jakobson, 1960), may elicit a unique affiliation with nonsense. When the maintenance of social networks is the primary goal, the exact meaning of the texts may become less important, thus increasing the possibility for the creation of nonsense” (p. 828).

A grounded theory study follows in which they pull memes from the Know Your Meme site and try to group them as making sense or being nonsense (great discussion of Nicolas Cage’s face being added to random scenes). They then identify 5 categories of nonsense: linguistic silliness, embodied silliness, pastiche, dislocations, and interruptions. They end by emphasizing how memes act as a “powerful social glue.” “We thus claim that while digital nonsensical memes often lack referential meaning, they always carry affective meaning” (p. 837).


This article was chosen because I have been struggling to theorize the selection of image for concert totems. They need to be unique identifiers, but to increase the social capital and the ecology of the concert environment, there also needs to be recognition of the image, a something about it that allows the viewer to think, “Hey! I recognize that reference! I like you a little more for that!” This article will help me to express some of the social draw that is created by what really amount to some nonsensical choices on the surface. I am going to end up with a paragraph or so about Justin Bieber’s mugshot, and yet another about a suped up Mr. Potato Head, so you can see why theories of nonsense apply.



Sign for VisRhet course

This is not a completed sign. Since my project is on concert totems and we were told we could create a sign for anything, I would like to propose my own concert totem.

These are materials I received from Bonnaroo. The first is the guide that has general rules for Bonnaroo attendance and camping. The second is the cereal box that contained this guide and the wristband I needed for attendance. The little mascot is Roofus. He is who I would want represented on my totem.

no list

In the official rules (from the map, not the guide), it states that “all totems must be made of light material.” For that reason, as well as the practicality of carrying the totem and holding it during multiple shows, I would construct Roofus out of inflatables.

The inflatables on the left are soda can pool floaties. I would purchase 3 sets, so I could have 3 of the lime green color, which I would then super glue together.

foam ballI would then purchase foam balls and plastic balls to create a face for Roofus. One purple foam ball would suffice for the nose. For his eyes, I would like to use glow-in-the-dark paint for the white surface, so the eyes will be visible at night. I might be able to use ping pong balls for the eyes and paint purple eyelids on them. My Roofus would be missing the yellow mouth with the tongue sticking out because I think it makes him look like the McDonald’s Hamburglar from my youth. If I was feeling really industrious and crafty, I could crochet little arms/hands for him, inserting stuffing and pipe cleaners, so the positions could be changed. I like the idea of creating a three dimensional sign because it literally stands out. I am not sure how visible my Roofus would be at a distance, but I am confident that he would be easier to carry than some other creations.

If I were to add text to the totem, I would choose “Rooofus” using the bubbly Bonnaroo font below and making the o’s connect as they do in the Bonnaroo logo below. Glow in the dark paint would probably be applied here as well. The text would be a platform of sorts upon which my Roofus inflatable would sit (without hat and shoes because my Roofus is chilling at a music festival and joining me at bluegrass shows, not attending 90’s hip hop). If I had time to crochet arms and hands for him, Roofus would need crocheted legs as well. I think to give him little Teva’s would be too much, so he would be barefoot; I think I saw more people barefoot at ‘Roo than I did wearing high top sneakers. Scratch that– I know I saw more people barefoot at ‘Roo as I do not recall anyone wearing high top sneakers.bonnaroologo2

Timeline Assignment



*In hindsight, I realize I did this incorrectly and should have focused only on design tools. This is saved on my office computer, the college is closed for Spring Break, and I am leaving for CCCC in a little more than 24 hours, so I cannot change it now.

Artifact, group 1, teaching week

For my artifact this week, I decided to bring in something from my classroom since the focus of this week is on teaching.

Last semester, I tried out a new course theme: superheroes. The third paper of the semester was one I called “The Hero Remixed.” Students had to change one element of a hero and explore how that change would ripple out and potentially alter foundational elements of the hero chosen. To assist students with the theoretical work of this butterfly effect, I gave them a preliminary, tactile, tangible visual assignment first.

Students were asked to use a basic editing program to splice images together to visually show the change they were proposing to their character. In one 50 minute class period, I explained the assignment and showed how to edit the pictures. The grade for the assignment was not based on execution but rather the ideas behind the image and a short written assignment and presentation that were associated with it.

I asked students for suggestions of what to edit. I had a few pictures selected beforehand. One was this image of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit:


Students proposed putting Bilbo on a bike or motorbike instead of having him on foot. We searched for a bike image as a class, and this is the end result:

hobbitremixIt isn’t the prettiest image ever created, but the students were able to see the editing skills in action. I showed them how to use Microsoft Paint because it is free and allows students to make an image’s background transparent for the overlay. The in-class activity also made the point that the final execution was not the most important part of the assignment.

One of the more memorable submissions for the project was what if the hero from the movie Hancock had been sober instead of a drunk. The student cut images of Sunny Delight to splice over the bottles of alcohol in an image from the movie. Another student wrote about a video game hero and his “what if” was what if the hero’s best friend was missing from his life. His image left a gaping black hole where the friend would usually appear.

By exploring the change in a visual means, students were able to express the overall changes that would occur in the character and his or her context. The topics varied from silly to serious.