Humor in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Continuity and Change in Internet-Based Comic Texts

Limor Shifman


This paper focuses on one of the most prominent manifestations of humorous communication in the present era – Internet-based humor. It explores both the content of Internet humor and the various forms that it takes. A content analysis of 400 humorous texts from eight salient humorous websites shows that the Internet functions both as a ‘carrier’ of old humor types such as jokes and cartoons and as a ‘generator’ of new humor types. The new types are defined and analysed in the light of three characteristics of the Internet: Interactivity, multimedia and global reach. Whereas interactivity is expressed in the humorous texts in a very limited way, the features of multimedia and global reach are more visible. The results point to a prominence of the visual humorous forms over the verbal forms, as well as to a global dominance over the local. This supremacy of the global is evident in the analysis of the humorous topics: Globally oriented topics such as sex, gender and animals are much more popular than locally oriented topics such as ethnicity and politics. This does not mean, however, that the humorous texts reflect a universal set of values. Not only are the vast majority of the texts in English, but they also reflect the values and priorities of Western, capitalist and youth-oriented cultures.

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