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Internet memes as cultural agents during the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis [SIEF Working Group on Digital Ethnology and Folklore (DEF)] I 
Tsafi Sebba-Elran (Haifa University)
Liisi Laineste (Estonian Literary Museum)
Christian Ritter (Karlstad University)
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Ana Banić Grubišić (University of Belgrade)
Digital Lives
Wednesday 23 June, -
Time zone: Europe/Helsinki

Short Abstract:

COVID-19 has prompted memes and other types of online folklore. Combining theoretical and practical approaches to study the ongoing crisis and its public response, the panel and workshop deal with experimental forms of gathering and presenting the pandemic-related ethnographic data.

Long Abstract:

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a widespread public response, which included internet memes, jokes, and other types of online folklore. The humorous reactions reflected and shaped by these narratives became an integral component of the "semantics of the epidemic" - everyday ideas and practices in dealing with it.

The panel focuses on the internet meme or image macro, and its various targets, types and roles during the pandemic in different national and regional contexts. We will discuss common content, form and meaning of meme cycles during this crisis. The data will be analysed from a comparative perspective, to the backdrop of previous waves of disaster jokes and the use of folklore in response to previous epidemics, crises, or risks. Examining the repertoires of different national and social groups will enable us to point at their universal and particular aspects, and show how they reflect the tensions of the pandemic as well as of the digital medium - between the global and the local, and between the hegemonic and the subversive.

The final session of the panel will be a workshop which invites ethnographic researchers who seek to explore the possibilities and limitations of ethnography as a form of transmedia storytelling (e.g. Walley 2015). Attendees will reflect on experimental forms of gathering and presenting ethnographic data. Transmedia storytelling carries great potential for rethinking asymmetrical power relations and ethnographic collaboration, transgressing both platform monopolies and traditional rules for authorship.

Please register for the workshop session here:

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 23 June, 2021, -