Know Your Meme and the homogenization of web history (2021)

Title: Know Your Meme and the homogenization of web history
Author: Ben T. Pettis
Year: 2021
Journal: Internet Histories
As memes circulate and spread throughout different Web communities, their meanings are continually changing. In the last decade, the website Know Your Meme (KYM) has become popular among researchers, educators, and day-to-day Web users to understand memes and their meanings. KYM is a frequently cited resource among Web researchers, and as a result it has become instrumental in establishing dominant histories of memes on the Web. Though KYM remains an invaluable resource, it is often cited with minimal context, and an uncritical reliance on KYM’s definitions may overlook the polysemy of many memes. Accordingly, this paper uses a discursive interface analysis of the KYM website along with examples of incomplete meme definitions to demonstrate how the website constructs itself as a cultural authority to define and classify memes. Given that memes themselves are artifacts of Web history, I argue the overreliance on KYM as an authority on memes and their history can contribute to the homogenization of Web histories. However, this paper acknowledges that KYM can still be a useful resource and to that end, offers recommendations for how researchers might better introduce and contextualize KYM within their own work.


Highly relevant to the other thread about KYM by @bigtimbones.

I often find that most researchers have no idea what a given meme is, and will often use Urban Dictionary and KYM as their main source for definitions. Doing this with even the Oxford English Dictionary is suspect, not to mention the fact that UD is more or less aimed at giving the least accurate definitions.

The more sophisticated academics refrain from relying on KYM and the trend seems to be growing fast. At the same time, KYM (and other meme explainer resources like Lessons In Meme Culture or Internet Historian) really do fulfil an unmet need; it's evidently a major need. I think we could develop a better method of doing this without attempting to be encyclopedic if we took a more conscientious approach with regards to the ontology.

In my opinion, it's something we could even develop organically as an outgrowth of discussing individual memetic artefacts (e.g. individual image files) as case studies within this forum.