Pop Polyvocality: Internet Memes, Public Participation, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Ryan M. Milner


From the inception of Occupy Wall Street (OWS), participatory media played a key role in the movement. Members of the public engaged OWS on sites like Tumblr and reddit. Central to the discussion were Internet memes. Memes are multimodal artifacts remixed by countless participants, employing popular culture for public commentary. Analyzing the use of memes in political discourse can illuminate the nature of mediated commentary on public events. This article examines how memes were used to articulate perspectives on OWS. A corpus of memes commenting on OWS from multiple participatory media networks was analyzed using multimodal critical discourse analysis. Findings indicated memes facilitated conversation between diverse positions. OWS memes employed populist argument and popular texts, intertwining them into a vibrant polyvocal public discourse.

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