Digital Communities as Online 'Gardens' for Memes: Metamorphic Narratives of Two Filipino 'Memeifiers' as Cultural Pollinators


The increasingly ubiquitous digital communities have become dynamic online social hubs for netizens to proliferate internet memes. While there have been an abundance of studies of memes, a dearth of investigations have examined how an internet user becomes an active producer of memes. Hence, we explored the narratives of two Filipino netizens, whom we call “memeifiers,” as we identified them as constant generators of memes. Based on the semi-structured interview data and analysis of their memes, we metaphorically posit that digital communities can be likened to online gardens where butterflies (memeifiers) dynamically engage in producing and pollinating memes. Using narrative configuration, we labelled their experiences into metamorphic narratives with three stages: (1) the cocoon stage, in which meme literacy is formed through active memes consumption; (2) the metamorphosis stage, in which meme-literate netizens vigorously generate memes then metamorphose into memeifiers; and finally, (3) the pollination stage, when memeifiers, akin to butterflies, continuously become cultural pollinators as they spread cultural artifacts through memes in various online communities. With these findings, we lay down some recommendations for future meme studies, such as that the metamorphic narrative of memeifiers be investigated in other geographical contexts since a memeifier’s story may vary due to cultural differences. Moreover, we recommend that the scope of participants be broadened, employing similar or other qualitative research designs and even quantitative perspectives to further scrutinize the metamorphosis of memeifiers and their roles as cultural pollinators.

Keywords: digital communities, memes, narrative study, online communities

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