Sunday, September 8, 2013

Case Study: "God Meme" (Ruth Tsuria)

I chose as my case study the "god meme", a meme presenting a picture of Michelangelo's God from The Creation of Adam (1511-1512). Above and below the picture there is a caption, which is referring to god or presented as god's thoughts or words. This meme is known in meme-websites as "Advice God".  
According to Knowyourmeme, "Advice God" was created around August 2010. The first image submitted to MemeGenerator featured the caption "Pigs? Shellfish? / Abominations".

Later the meme spread through Reddit, various atheist websites and finally other popular meme websites such as Tumblr, memebase etc. It even had its own Android app for a short time.
Interestingly enough, the meme evolved and incorporated other aspects of different memes. Such memes are "Scumbag God", "Hipster God", "Insanity Wolf God", etc. This intertextuality within the "meme-sphere" is worth inspecting, as it could lead to an understanding of the norms and accepted behaviors within the meme creating community.
In addition, the content of the message varied. The original "Advice God" meme is based on irony and contradictions within the Bible or other religious notions. Most of the captions in these memes will present first something god said or did (for example, "Forbid the eating of pork") and then its contradiction ("make pork delicious"). Other memes (perhaps later ones) started using the god image in different ways –to raise philosophical questions (e.g., when god is depicted saying "I regret nothing"), present god's decisions and behaviors in a more causal way ("Do not covet thy neighbor's ox/ lol… I don't know why, just don't ok?") Or even to advance racist or chauvinistic ideals ("created woman / gave her vocal cords" or: "make oil invaluable to society/ give it to the Arabs").
I have chosen 13 "god memes": 10 in the original "Advice God" format and 3 in the "Scumbag Advice God" format. The memes chosen vary in their messages and context. In the following weeks I will try to track the sources of this memes, and reconstruct a chronology of the different uses of it.  In particular, I would focus on the intertextuality aspect of the user-generated memes, the use of several memes in one image (such as the "Scumbag Advice god") in an attempt to find which memes are used to speak about religion and how.
I will also conduct a careful content analysis of the chosen memes, which will focus on the diverse uses of the "god meme". Such analysis might reveal the current trends and ideas internet users have concerning the image of god, religion in general and Judo-Christianity in particular.

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