During the last few weeks, I have addressed the different aspects of the meme as a cultural text. This week, the blog post will revolve around the producers and the consumers of the text. In order to address this Issue, I will discuss two main themes:
1. The producer as consumer: It seems that the Internet provides a new layer to the classic model of communication (ENCODER – MESSAGE – DECODER), when the decoder of a message becomes an encoder of a new message, facilitated in a new context and directed to a new audience.
The example of the Coca Cola meme demonstrates the complex nature of this process. The creator of this meme describes himself as “not Orthodox and not religious at all”. It was important for him to establish this fact, since the meme he created was not intentioned to be published on “Tweeting Orthodoxies” and “found its own way there alone”. It happens to be that the first comment regarding this meme in the new “facilitating hub” of Jewish religious jokes is a comment of the creator itself, now an audience member of his own meme. He wrote: “My grandfather would have been proud, he was a Rabbi.” Although the creator was aware of the religious aspect of his meme, he did not have a religious audience in mind when he created it. Most of the comments accompanying the meme reveal an amused audience, but some of them do emphasis the religious aspect of their interpretation process, addressing possible problems with the religious message: “It makes no sense to use the name Menachem-Mendel [one of the names on the bottles] as it is a Habad name and ‘habadnicim’ [people of this religious sector] do not drink this brand for its not Habad authorized”. We can see that in some cases, the audience’s understanding of religion was central to the interpretation of the meme. What the creator, and the operators of this FB page thought to be funny was interpreted by a religious consumer with an emphasis on the religious aspect and not the humorous aspect.
2. The consumer as producer: The creator of the meme about Negiah described the process of creating the meme as “a reaction to another meme I saw, ridiculing religious Jewish people that practice this Halakhic custom”.
people that high five without touching, you are “Awesome”, keep on going that way
The producer of the meme is actually a consumer that took his decoding and meaning making process to a level of creating a well thought well produced reaction to the message, blurring even further the distinction between media producers and consumers. This blurred line facilitates a “lived religion” in which religious internet users can practice their offline religious interpretive framework in an online environment. The creation of religious memes helps the creators to include their religion in everyday activities that are perceived as secular – like using Facebook.
The creator of the Matrix meme suggests that “this Facebook page and the memes make the Jewish religion less rigid. It enables us to experience religion as less threatening; as something we can actually laugh about”. Emphasizing the importance of responsivity in today’s media consumption process, he adds: “the way Facebook pages are built makes it easier to share and comment about memes, which makes the whole process of creating them and consuming them much more meaning full for the users”.