Memes are all around

Funny images on the internet, artworks with texts, gif videos… yes, these are memes. But what’s a meme in real?

The notion of memes originates from Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist from the 1970’s. He says that some evolutionary principles can be applied in explaining the spread of ideas. In biology the attribution of creatures are set by its genes, just like in a culture, where the nature of thoughts is also determined by smaller units, which he named memes. Memes are replicators (they forward thoughts/information) just like genes.

From a less academic perspective memes are units of ideas, behaviours or styles that spread person to person. They are small parts of information that can be interpreted in different ways. Memes are all around us. We meet them while shopping, in our business life, when reading a bedtime story, when listening a catchy song on the radio and of course the internet is full of reappropriations as well.

Memes in marketing

In today’s marketing memes are considered more frequently than before, since it became clear that people remember everything better when they have the chance to “put” a certain piece of information to the right place in their head. Maybe the oldest and a widely known example for meme is the British propaganda poster from 1939, which says “Keep Calm and Carry On”. Since 2000, when the poster was rediscovered, many private companies constantly reproduce this meme, and use it for their own sake.

Memes in education

Memes do exist in education as well. Usually, academic results are incorporated in our everyday life in forms of memes: all of these results mean different things for us, but yet the academic background stays the same. As a student I preferred teachers who were looking for my own thoughts about a certain topic and did not expect me to memorize their words. Who were rather interested whether I remembered important information units i.e. the memes they taught. Who valued when I understood the context, I was able complete the information with my own thoughts and tell them an example from my own experience

Now I know that good teachers teach memes and let their students to remember it the easiest way as they can.


Storyteller: Judit Kertesz, Creativity consultant, Budapest, Hungary— partner in the Erasmus+ project GuLL

More info about GuLL: www.pleasemakemistakes.eu

Guerilla Literacy Learning is a project co-funded by Erasmus+ (Agreement no. 2014–1-BE02-KA200–000472)