Uplifting Memes is a library outreach project aimed at connecting students with library resources and spaces while also addressing critical, intersecting literacies that help students develop “transformative life skills necessary to be informed and engaged in society” and navigate “digital resources and content” (UNCG University Libraries Strategic Plan, 2018-19) through the theme of memes.
The name Uplifting Memes was chosen for the project because it has a double meaning in the sense that uplifting can be either an adjective or a verb. For example, an uplifting meme is one that raises a viewer’s spirits through humor and positivity. On the other hand, the act of uplifting memes allows us to raise the level of discourse around memes as a form of information that students feel empowered to both consume and create.
While memes, or pieces of text, images, animations, or videos that are copied, shared, adapted and modified over the internet, are usually associated with simple humor, they are also the subject of serious academic inquiry around contemporary linguistics, political discourse, community governance, and visual communication (Cannizzaro, 2016; Highfield & Leaver, 2016; Nissenbaum & Shifman, 2017; Wiggins & Bowers, 2015).
At the same time, memes are everyday parlance for many undergraduate students. For example, Rooney (2017) argues, “memes are arguably one of the most ubiquitous forms of content millennials consume,” and “the Meme Generation” has even been offered as an alternative name for the still-evolving post-millennial “Generation Z” (Bromwich, 2018; Kolitz, 2019)—and enjoyment of memes is in no way limited to traditional-aged students.
Memes also raise important questions related to information, visual, digital, and primary source literacies, such as the role of students as content creators and participants in scholarly discourse, the importance of using information ethically in the context of digital remix culture, and the power of images in communication—all topics that directly relate to concepts from the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (2015), the ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education (2011), and the SAA Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy (2017).
Thus, the richness and relevance of memes create the perfect lens through which students can engage with critical questions and crucial dispositions for interacting with the current information environment in an innovative and enriching way. To learn more or to get involved, visit http://go.uncg.edu/umemes.
The Uplifting Memes project is the recipient of the 2019-2020 UNCG University Libraries Innovation and Program Enrichment grant.