How memes became weapons in the culture war

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LG: I think this is very vague, but we will take people to the show, I hope he can clarify for us.

MC: OK. We need experts.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

LG: Welcome to the Gadget Lab. This is Lauren Goode. I am a senior writer at WIRED.

MC: This is Michael Carroll. I am the senior editor of WIRED.

LG: This week, Emily Dreyfuss joined us. Emily is a senior editor at the Harvard Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy. She also happens to be our former WIRED colleague, where she wrote articles on mBot, Alexa, and cybersecurity issues, etc. Emily, welcome back to the Gadget Lab.

Emily Dreyfus: great! I am very happy to be here, you guys. I think I will go home for a minute.

MC: what.

LG: In many ways, you are known for your mBot story, in which you almost appear in a bunch of WIRED meetings, just like a robot’s courtesy. So now, we don’t have mBot, but we have you in Zoom.

Education Department: Yes. I think I am an early adopter of the virtual workspace situation. Everyone was terrified when the coronavirus started, like “How will we accomplish this?” I was thinking, “Man, I’ve actually been working remotely alone at home for ten years.”

MC: Wow.

LG: So Emily lived in Metaverse for much longer than the rest of us. I think this is like another podcast episode. We will talk about Metaverse at some point, but today, we talk about memes because this is the subject of a book that you and your team have been working on.

Education Department: Yes.

LG: So Internet memes are harmless enough at the beginning, right? A few pictures of cats, and maybe some grammatically wrong text. I mean, how bad is it? But in fact, memes have been deployed as weapons of culture war for more than a decade, and they are more convincing than most people realize. Putting a good meme on someone’s social media timeline can lead them into a trap of radicalization, misinformation, and even extremism. So, Emily, you have been writing this book.It is called Drafting to the meme war, It’s about how memes promote entire ideological factions in the real world and shape our politics. But first, let’s review the history of memes, and let’s go back to the question I asked Mike at the beginning of the show. What are memes, and when do they really become a thing?

Education Department: Row. What a good question. Therefore, I should say that I am writing this book with my team at Harvard, which is led by a sociologist named Joan Donovan. She is a sociologist of technological culture and sports, studying how they are incited online and the interaction between these sports and the Internet. Therefore, she is really like the most important and inspiring expert on how online media brings people together. Then, the other person we are writing this book is our senior researcher, a man named Brian Friedberg, he is an ethnologist…he claims to be a digital ethnographer, an anthropologist , Which means that he basically lives in the Internet community and uses this media to become a movement. So in the process of writing this book for me, I learned a lot about memes, because as an Internet reporter, I have to say that I ignored memes for too long because they seem trivial, they seem Like jokes, I can’t notice what they look like because they are not imported into the real world.



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