Technologist and digital media scholar An Xiao Mina provides a global exploration of internet memes as agents of pop culture, politics, protest, and propaganda on- and offline. Based on her new book, Memes to Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media is Changing Social Protest and Power (Beacon Press, January 2019), Mina uses social media-driven movements to unpack the mechanics of memes and how they operate to reinforce, amplify, and shape today’s politics.
Crucially, Mina reveals how, in parts of the world where public dissent is downright dangerous, memes can belie contentious political opinions that would incur drastic consequences if expressed outright. She finds that the “silly” stuff of meme culture—the photo remixes, the selfies, the YouTube songs, and the pun-tastic hashtags—are fundamentally intertwined with how we find and affirm one another, direct attention to human rights and social justice issues, build narratives, and make culture.
Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd joins An Xiao Mina in conversation.
An “An Xiao” Mina is a technologist, writer and artist. She leads the product team at Meedan, where they are building Check, a platform for collaboratively verifying news in real time, and Bridge, a platform for translating social media and messaging app content. Check has played a key role in award-winning digital journalism projects such as Verificado, Electionland and CrossCheck. She is also a co-founder at the Credibility Coalition, an effort to develop a standard for assessing content credibility online, and co-chair of the W3C Credible Web Community Group. She served as a contributing editor for the book Ai Weiwei: Spatial Matters, and her own work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the U.S. and around the world. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Wired, the New Inquiry, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Al Jazeera English, and Hyperallergic. A 2016–17 research fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and product director at the technology company Meedan, her home is wherever the Wi-Fi is.
Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.