cheerful apprehensiveness of image macros as a tool for contextualising and defamiliarizing research elements

Memes have the ability function as a form of collective consciousness. Their form ranges from depicting intricate concepts to contemplating personal insights. They offer criticism and sympathy through humour. Because of their relatability, memes can spread throughout communities by being shared, often mutating and adapting to evolving situations.

Their specific situatedness offers valuable context in which academic research can be situated. As academic research is often theoretical, finding ways that provide fresh perspectives is crucial. The approachable construct of memes presents the welcome antidote to academic language, as it's close to students' own interior lives, interests and experiences.

Memes gathered on this page offer potential informal methods for students working with theoretical research questions while providing information on the memes and suggestions on how to apply them. The aim is to offer fresh perspectives that could potentially spark new ideas.

Feel free to let me know about your experience. Suggestions are also welcome: hrnic.a (at)

Ideology at Work
complexities, summarized

Ideology is a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy. Some of the most common ideologies include democracy, socialism, and capitalism, but they can also be more hybrid or niche. Ideology is thus often enacted in relation to our surroundings.

Consciously or subconsciously, we all peform a specific ideology when we position ourselves in relation to our research subject. What are some of the ideologies that can be found in your research? What are some of the ideologies that you perform in your point of view?

Where else do you recognise this ideology at work? Try to identify this ideology in your surroundings, either in your interactions, through observation, or in the culture that you consume. Make a visual summary.

If it's an ideology formulated in a publication, try to summarise it into an image that can be used as a cover for that publication, such as images above.

Does it function? Does it need change, directness, simplification, or a different nuance? Examine and adjust accordingly.

Cognitive Dissonance
identifying ideological contradictions

Cognitive Dissonance refers to the mental conflict that occurs when personal beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by the new information. This uncomfortable feeling sometimes occurs when situations challenge our ideas that we only hold in our mind (i.e. purely theoretical or hypothetical ideas and beliefs). The instinct to this mental discomfort is sometimes to deny or rationalise dissonant elements, in order to hold on to original beliefs instead of changing them.

Is there a contradiction between actions / behaviour and ideas / beliefs to be found in your research subject?

(The image above visualises how contradictions can be identified when made abstract.)

Observe and identify examples of narratives where these contradictions occur, either in your personal interactions, or in the culture that you consume. Think small and make a (visual) summary.

Does it offer new insights into your subject? What types of insights?

Shifting the Perspective
finding the strange in the familiar

Defamiliarisation refers to the literary device whereby language is used in such a way that ordinary and familiar objects are made to look different and strange. This is done in order to gain perspectives and perhaps even undo previously upheld blind spots.

Identify a narrative from your own research and rewrite it with a new perspective. Consider the different elements that form your narrative, and how their meanings can shift in other contexts. Chose a perspective to write from and see what new meanings emerge.

Narrative recontextualisation
mediatising the research elements

Most research contain narratives. A narrative is a story-telling device that can help the researcher place their data and findings into a coherent story that speaks to the audience's imagination.

What narrative(s) can be found in your research? What genre is your narrative? Think of your research as a story. Who is the main protagonist, who are side characters and who are antagonist(s)?

Switch perspectives and look at the present day situation of your research subject as if it were the past. What are some of the things that we find normal today that could become unusual in the future and what is something that is uncommon today but could become common in the future? Think of different scenarios for your subject's narrative. Chose one to elaborate on.

Postmodern Pyramid Scheme
sources of your sources

Postmodern experience is constituted by inevitable exposure to “hyperreality”. The truth is fractured into subjective interpretations (see the term: "Speaking my truth") and the reality exists as a copy without the original. The ideas and concepts that we work with are often derivative of other ideas of those that came before.

Do you recognise an example of hyperreal occuring within your research subject? Trace the loop of meaning through visualisation by using the True Self and False Self template.

Alternatively, look at the main sources or the main concepts that you are using in your research. What sources have your sources used in their research? Trace back the sources as far as you can and visualise the trace in the template as the one shown above.

Below is an example of memes derived from the original meme depicting the process ofhyperreal at work.

By tracing the copies found within our research back to the original, we can deepen our understanding of our research subject.

Scale of Ethics
measuring the wants and the needs

While it's possible to problematize any subject through research, it's valuable to understand and have perspective on the relative scale of the problem.

In the memes depicted here, healthcare is presented as a threshold on to which other societal needs are measured (significant subject from the US point of view). The credo "Healthcare pls", when put in front of headlines about other (government) expenses, offer perspective on the value of those other expenses.

Chose a provision or a human right that you want to measure in relation to your own moral and ethical research question. This can be something like healthcare or anything specific that you deem urgent and essential. Place it in the Healthcare Pls template by exchanging the work healthcare for your own question. Next, place a headline related to your research subject next to it. How do they relate to eachother? What is the scale of ethics?

It's important to note that research questions can still be valid even if there are other more important subjects pertaining to our daily lives. The point of this is to become aware of the scale in which you operate.

Extracting the Aesthetics
the function of pure form

Differentiating the pragmaatic and the aesthetic.

Kill Your Darlings
what are you killing / what's killing you?