Embracing LOLitics: Popular Culture, Online Political Humor, and Play
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (with Distinction)
The Internet, and Web 2.0 tools can empower audiences to actively participate in media creation. This allows the production of large quantities of content, both amateur and professional. Online memes, which are extensions of usually citizen-created viral content, are a recent and popular example of this. This thesis examines the participation of ordinary individuals in political culture online through humor creation. It focuses on citizen-made political humor memes as an example of engaged citizen discourse. The memes comprise of photographs of political figures altered either by captions or image editing software, and can be compared to more traditional mediums such as political cartoons, and 'green screens' used in filmmaking. Popular culture is often used as a 'common language' to communicate meanings in these texts. This thesis thus examines the relationship between political and popular culture. It also discusses the value of 'affinity spaces', which actively encourage users to participate in creating and sharing the humorous political texts. Some examples of the political humor memes include: the subversion of Vladimir Putin's power by poking fun at his masculine characteristics through acts similar to fanfiction, celebrating Barack Obama’s love of Star Wars, comparing a candid photograph of John McCain to fictional nonhuman creatures such as zombies using photomanipulation, and the wide variety of immediate responses to Osama bin Laden's death. This thesis argues that much of the idiosyncratic nature of the political humor memes comes from a motivation that lies in non-serious play, though they can potentially offer legitimate political criticism through the myths 'poached' from popular culture.
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