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Revista Comunicar 72: Sociedad de la desinformación: El impacto de las fake news en la esfera pública (Vol. 30 - 2022)

La vida de los memes de mascarillas del COVID-19: Un estudio diacrónico del panorama memético durante la pandemia

The life of COVID-19 mask memes: A diachronic study of the pandemic memescape

https://doi.org/10.3916/C72-2022-06

Marta Dynel

Abstract

Tomando como punto de partida una definición precisa de un meme de Internet (frente a un constructo memético), este artículo pretende compartir los resultados obtenidos del primer estudio diacrónico sobre memes, centrado específicamente en los memes de mascarillas en el amplio panorama de memes surgido a raíz de la pandemia del COVID-19, asociado a la cambiante situación sociopolítica. El estudio utiliza un corpus diacrónico de memes con mascarillas para el COVID-19 etiquetados por usuarios (publicados en Internet desde enero de 2020 hasta enero de 2021) extraídos de Google mediante un script de Python. Sobre la base de un enfoque de teoría fundamentada, se extraen y examinan diez categorías meméticas (divididas en cuatro grupos) a través de una lente analítica de discurso multimodal. El análisis cuantitativo diacrónico muestra que los constructos meméticos, inspirados por la situación/acontecimientos sociopolíticos actuales y facilitados por el contexto sociopolítico (por ejemplo, el confinamiento), parecen persistir, aunque con intensidad variada, durante la mayor parte del año, lo que permitió que muchos memes se volvieran virales. La longevidad de los memes y los constructos meméticos es indicativa del objetivo principal de los usuarios, que es compartir elementos interesantes y/o humorísticos (no siempre nuevos o relevantes) por diversión, independientemente de la naturaleza de los memes (es decir, humor autotélico por sí mismo o comentarios de los usuarios sobre la realidad circundante).

Taking as its point of departure a fine-tuned definition of an Internet meme (vis-à-vis a memetic construct), this paper reports the findings of the first diachronic study of memes, the focus being on mask memes on the vast COVID-19 mask memescape evolving in the wake of the pandemic, relative to the changing socio-political situation. The study capitalises on a diachronic corpus of user-tagged COVID-19 mask memes (posted online from January 2020 to January 2021) collected from Google through a Python script. Based on a grounded-theory approach, ten memetic categories (clustered into four groups) are extracted and examined through a multimodal discourse analytic lens. The diachronic quantitative analysis shows that the memetic constructs, inspired by the current socio-political situation/events and facilitated by the socio-political context (e.g. going into lockdown), seem to persist, albeit with varied intensity, for the best part of the year, with many individual memes going viral. Memes’ and memetic constructs’ long lifespan is indicative of users’ primary goal, which is to share interesting and/or humorous (not always newly minted or relevant) items for the sake of fun, regardless of the memes’ nature (i.e. autotelic humour for its own sake or users’ commentaries on the surrounding reality).

Keywords

Marcarillas COVID-19, corpus diacrónico, meme, constructo memético, humor, viral

COVID-19 mask, diachronic corpus, meme, memetic construct, humour, viral

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