Memes, Macros, Meaning, and Menace: Some Trends in Internet Memes

This article maps some key patterns associated with how internet memes are conceived and how online meme practices have evolved and morphed during the period from 2000 to the present. We document the rise of internet memes during their early years as a broadly communitarian cultural engagement, mostly characterized by goodwill, humor, and an often “nerdish” sense of shared cultural identity. With the massification of internet access and participation in online social practices employing Web 2.0 and mobile computing capacities, changes occurred in how internet memes were conceived and created (e.g., image macro-generators). Since around 2012, many online meme practices have become intensely politicized and increasingly used for socially divisive and, often, cruel purposes. We explore some of these shifts and argue that what we call “second wave” online memes have been used as weapons in personal, political, and social-cultural wars. We conclude that internet memes scholarship would benefit from revisiting the original conception and theory of memes advanced by Richard Dawkins, and attending closely to what motivated Dawkins in this work.

Raising Robotic Natives?: Persuasive Potentials of Social Robots in Early Education

Recently, social robots are increasingly tested within educational settings as tools to learn about, media to learn through, or social actors to learn from and with. While robots are marketed as making learning more effective, their use raises concerns with respect to the target group’s age, knowledge, and dependency on others. Therefore, this article aims at exploring ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of applying robots in early education. Referring to Fogg’s framework of computers as persuasive technologies (captology), we will derive possible challenges connected to the different roles a robot can take on within learning settings. By reviewing literature from human-robot interaction, ethics, technology assessment, and Science and Technology Studies, we will conclude that applying robots in early education should not mean letting children be taught by them but rather utilizing these technologies to teach about and through them.

In a Mediated Age: Covering Migration, Cultivating Expectations

This article, focusing on significant recent and current migration events, begins with the wide acknowledgement that mass media, especially news media, are the dominant sources from which individuals and groups construct their social realities. Further, print or broadcast reports, along with accompanying images that provide immediacy, relevance, and authenticity for the verbal messages, encourage particular interpretations through agenda setting, framing, and thematic narratives. The consistent, persistent, and corroborative character of media coverage of specific events, issues, or populations weighs heavily in this regard. Host-country expectations are typically formed as migrants approach a destination, or concurrently with their arrival, influencing reception and contextualizing perceptions of initial and ongoing encounters with migrants. The techniques and character of the agenda-setting, framing, and thematic narration as well as their impact on public opinion are explored. Additionally, journalistic self-assessment of migration coverage is explored.