Miri's XPUB2 thesis outline

From XPUB & Lens-Based wiki

Second Version


Key issues

  • The memetic warfare of the alt-right
  • The perfect meme
  • Strategies for counteractions

Research question

THE LEFT CAN MEME - What we can learn from the alt-right's meme war and how we can counteract.

Thesis: Introduction

~ 500 words

  • Memes became a popular way of communication but can also work as political propaganda
  • What I am going to talk about in this thesis (What we can learn from the alt-right's meme war and how we can counteract)

Goal of this chapter: Introduce clearly what this thesis is about. Make the reader curious.

Thesis: Chapter 1 - The memetic warfare of the alt-right

~ 2000 words

  • Who is the alt-right?
  • The alt-right and how they were involved in the 2016 presidential election
  • What are the alt-right's meme strategies?
  • How do the alt-right bring "memes to the street"? / How do they achieve to make people act outside of the internet?

Goal of this chapter: Explain the memetic warfare of the alt-right. Name their strategies. State how much of a political impact memes can have and how they can be weaponized in a dangerous way. Underline urgency to counteract.

Thesis: Chapter 2 - Can the left meme?

~ 2000 words

  • What are tactics of the leftist meme-makers - why "can't the left meme?"
  • Why the left cannot just steal strategies from the right-wing. Problematics that come with the alt-right meme strategies. Illustrate how the message of a meme changes with its political strategy (imagine what would happen if the left did use the same strategies).
  • How do leftist meme pages try to make their audience more political (interviews of Critical Meme Reader 2)

Goal of this chapter: Explain where the left is at and the paradoxon of leftist using (some of) the same strategies as the alt-right. Explain where "the left can't meme" came from.

Thesis: Chapter 3 - Strategies for counteractions

~ 2000 words

  • Meme-making: Strategies from within the meme battle field. What is the perfect (most successful) meme? (Limor Shifman)
  • How to infiltrate the meme mainstream?
  • Activating people: How to motivate people online to act in real life? (build groups, hacker meetings, demonstrations, stickers,...)
  • Non-violent internet counteraction strategies like "ok, boomer"

Goal of this chapter: Find and sum up counteraction strategies.

Thesis: Conclusion

~ 500 words

Thesis: Glossary

First Version


[POV: you're writing a thesis about memes]

Key issues

  • Memes and their political dimension
  • Infiltration of public space as an art strategy
  • The potential of memefying daily life

Internet memes have developed into a kind of new language, a new digital dialect, which can not only help us identify and understand new cultural trends, but that can also have a political effect. What superficially can be understood as nonsense or jokes can be a very accessible form of political participation (e.g.: the alt-right movement with Pepe the Frog). In principle, everyone who is a bit familiar with the internet and digital culture can understand meme language and also potentially make memes.

[Person reading this that doesn't have access to internet, nor an electronic device and is blind: Am I a joke to you?]

If you look further into the theories of memetics such as Richard Dawkins theories in The Selfish Gene, you quickly find out that memes do not only refer to internet memes but in a broader way, to elements of behaviour passed on from one individual to another by imitation (such as jokes, songs, dances or even beliefs that have been passed on over generations). Dawkins refers to memes as the cultural parallel to biological genes in the sense of that they are similar in being in control of their own reproduction.

When reading into this, I could not unsee the parallels between memetic strategies and art strategies I've researched and used in the past. Tactical media, culture jamming, hacking strategies and media activism often work similar to memes. Such parallels are:

  • Working bottom-up (meaning they proceed from the bottom of a hierarchy upwards)
  • Replicating something with a twist (taking something out of a context, changing it a bit and putting it back into this context)
  • Easy generation of attention and participation
  • The aspect of humour
  • The use of public space
  • The use of an audience
  • Being part of a community

These parallels certainly do not apply to all the projects of these art movements and are clearly my own perception, nevertheless, they apply strongly to my own artistic practice.

[change my mind]

This is why I want this master thesis to be closely linked to my artistic practice as well as my master project and that it answers questions that arise in my own creative process.

Connecting these two topics, 1. memes and their political dimension and 2. infiltration of public space as an art strategy, for my master project, I want to translate memetic behaviour to infiltrations of public spaces and make a guide to "memefy" life. So in my thesis, I want to write about these two topics as well and as the third key issue, a combination of these two: The potential of memefying life. In this last chapter, I will try to find out how exactly it could be possible to memefy your life and hopefully find answers that later on can guide me through my master project. Also, it can be seen as a sort of manifesto for imaginary interventions (that could possibly be realised). I want to talk about the potential of bringing memes to the street and the political dimension it could open up. The possibilities of memefying life in a non-digital way as pleasant disturbances, as a political voice or even as an act of non-violent protest. I want to find out, what advantages or disadvantages the digital or the non-digital sphere for the medium meme could have.

This third point (memefying daily life) is not merely a theoretical attempt of translating something digital into something non-digital but also of much importance for my artistic practice since I work a lot with the strategies and on the topics mentioned above. I see this thesis as a platform to reflect on my own experiments and as research for my master project. Although, in the thesis, I will not directly write about the final project itself, my research will help me connecting the dots in order to see the whole picture which will be useful for me for finalising my project.

[cool story, bro]

Research question

What are the possibilities of translating memes into artistic infiltrations of the public sphere?

Sub-question: What political impact could this translation have on the public sphere as well as on the meme itself?

[one does not simply find a research question]


An experimental analytical essay. I want to combine the classical format of a text written in an academic style with a comment section that uses internet slang.

[You don't say]

Thesis: Introduction

~ 500 words

  • State what I am going to talk about in the thesis
  • Explanation of the research question and the research goal
  • Give background information and state how the thesis will contribute to my master project

Goal of this chapter:

Summarise all research questions without having the answers to them yet

Thesis: Chapter 1 - Memes and their political dimension

~ 2000 words

[I don't always write a research paper

but when I do, it is about memes]


  • Introduce the term "meme", its origin and its meaning
  • Mention the difference between memes and internet memes

Memes and politics

  • How can a meme generate political participation? And how do memes influence politics?
  • How does the act of replication give a sense of community? And how universal are memes really?
  • How can memes be a form of protest? Talk about memes in democratic spaces vs. in non-democratic spaces

The perfect meme

  • What makes a meme successful?
  • Why are memes such an effective way of spreading ideas? Introduce L. Shifman's explanation on viral vs. memetic success
  • Introduce R. Dawkins theory on what characteristics make a meme spread faster
  • Summarise a set of characteristics/a set of rules for memetic success

Goal of this chapter:

Analyse memes theoretically to receive a certain set of rules that could be applied to non-digital memes as infilitrations in non-digital spaces. This will help me build the argument for chapter 3, specifically the part where I am writing about the possibilities of translating memes.

Thesis: Chapter 2 - Infiltration of public space as an art strategy

~ 2000 words

Art movements that use the strategy of infiltrating public spaces

  • Research on culture jamming, tactical media and hacking
  • Research on Dada and Fluxus

Every public space is political

  • How do you generate political participation and attention?
  • What exact strategies are used in artistic infiltrations that could be memefied?
  • Research on advertising strategies that make people participate in certain actions

...Following questions will not all extensively be answered but might be included:

  • To whom belongs space and how do you use it?
  • How can you maybe even initiate social-transformatory processes through artistic interventions?
  • How can you grasp and react to a place's political, cultural and national systems of values?

Thesis: Chapter 3 - Memefying daily life

~ 2000 words

  • Speculating on how to incorporate memes in your daily life in a non-digital way
  • Finding and reasoning the urgency of translating memes to actions
  • What are the possibilities of translating memes into infiltrations of the public sphere?
  • State possible interventions that could be realised
  • What political impact could this translation have on the public spaces as well as on the meme itself?
  • Reflect on the political meaning

Thesis: Conclusion

~ 500 words

Conclusion yet to come


  • Repeat and summarise what I will have found out
  • Add possible open questions that could lead to further research

Thesis: Glossary

Glossary yet to come

Reading list for thesis

Shifman, L. (2014). Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT Press

Blackmore, S. and Dawkins, R. (1999). The Meme Machine. New York: Oxford University Press

Von Gehlen, D. (2020). Meme. Berlin: Verlag Klaus Wagenbach

Raley, R. (2009). Tactical media. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press

Arkenbout, C. and Scherz, L. (2022). Critical Meme Reader II: Memetic Tacticality. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures

McCulloch, G. (2019). Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. New York: Riverhead Books

Bogost, I. (2022). The Age of Social Media Is Ending. [online] Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/11/twitter-facebook-social-media-decline/672074/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2022]

Weibel, P. (2015). Global Activism, Art and Conflict in the 21st Century. Cambridge: MIT Press

Friesinger, G. and Grenzfurthner J. and Ballhausen, T. (2010). Urban Hacking: Cultural Jamming Strategies in the Risky Spaces of Modernity. Bielefeld: Transcript publishing

Schmidt, S.M. (2010). Hacking the City, Interventions in urban and communicative spaces. Folkwang: Edition Folkwang / Steidl

Christe, D.W.C. and Ritzen, H.H.P.M. (2021), The Manual of Modern Pataphysics. Rotterdam: Platform P

Stiegler C. and Breitenbach P. and Zorbach T. (2015). New Media Culture: Mediale Phänomene der Netzkultur. Bielefeld: transcript publishing

Nowotny J. and Reidy J. (2022). Memes, Formen und Folgen eines Internetphänomens. Bielefeld: transcript publishing

Marrs, L. and & Dingsun, T. (2022). How to Read the Internet. [online] Available at: https://otherinter.net/research/lore/how-to-read-the-internet/ [Accessed 26 Nov. 2022]

Hemmens, A. and Zacarias G. (2020). The Situationist International, A Critical Handbook. Pluto Press

FACTLiverpool (2017). Meme Wars: Internet Culture and the ‘Alt Right’ | Florian Cramer Talk at FACT. YouTube [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiNYuhLKzi8&ab_channel=FACTLiverpool [Accessed 17. Nov. 2022]

Jones, S.E. (2006). Against Technology - From the Luddites to Neo-Luddism. Great Britain: Routledge

Deseriis, M. (2011). Lots of Money Because I am Many: The Luther Blissett Project and the Multiple-Use Name Strategy. Books.google.com

Baas, J. (2011). Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life. New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, and Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Erickson, J.D. (1984). Dada, Performance, Poetry and Art. USA: Twayne publishers

Christe MA, D.W.C. and Ritzen, H.H.P.M. (2021). The Manual of Modern Pataphysics - Vol. 1. Rotterdam: Platform P

Cramer, F., (2013). Anti-Media - Ephemera on Speculative Arts. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, Rotterdam: naio10 publishers

McCulloch, G. (2019). Because Internet - Understanding how language is changing. London: Vintage

Delaure, M. and Fink, M. (2017). Culture Jamming - Activism and the art of cultural resistance. New York: New York University Press

Firat, B.Ö. and Kuryel, A. (2011). Cultural Activism : Practices, Dilemmas, and Possibilities. Amsterdam and New York, NY : Rodopi

Noor, P. (2019). How the alt-right co-opted the OK hand sign to fool the media. The Guardian. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/03/ok-sign-gesture-emoji-rightwing-alt-right [accessed 10 Jan. 2023]

Reason TV (2017). Memed Into the Public Domain? The Battle for Pepe the Frog. YouTube. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ1-P1X2ue8&ab_channel=ReasonTV [accessed 18 Jan. 2023]

The Infographics Show (2020). Meme Warfare - How Countries Are Weaponizing Memes. YouTube. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fM_mbQRodU&ab_channel=TheInfographicsShow [accessed 18 Jan. 2023]