A global exploration of internet memes as agents of pop culture, politics, protest, and propaganda on- and offline, and how they will save or destroy us all
Product Code: 6872
ISBN: 9780807056585
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Published Date: 01/05/2019
Pages: 240
Availability:In stock
Price: $24.95

Memes are the street art of the social web. Using social media–driven movements as her guide, technologist and digital media scholar An Xiao Mina unpacks the mechanics of memes and how they operate to reinforce, amplify, and shape today’s politics. 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. Mina finds parallels, for example, between a photo of Black Lives Matter protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, raising their hands in a gesture of resistance and one from eight thousand miles away, in Hong Kong, of Umbrella Movement activists raising yellow umbrellas as they fight for voting rights. She shows how a viral video of then presidential nominee Donald Trump laid the groundwork for pink pussyhats, a meme come to life as the widely recognized symbol for the international Women’s March.

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. Activists in China evade censorship by critiquing their government with grass mud horse pictures online. Meanwhile, governments and hate groups are also beginning to utilize memes to spread propaganda, xenophobia, and misinformation. Botnets and state-sponsored agents spread them to confuse and distract internet communities. On the long, winding road from innocuous cat photos, internet memes have become a central practice for political contention and civic engagement.

Memes to Movements unveils the transformative power of memes, for better and for worse. At a time when our movements are growing more complex and open-ended—when governments are learning to wield the internet as effectively as protestors—Mina brings a fresh and sharply innovative take to the media discourse.

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Hands Up, Umbrellas Up

The Revolution of the Cat

All About the Feels

2.1: Hoist High the Profile Picture
2.2: Behold, the Llamas

Ahem, Attention Please
3.1: From Spain to Uganda and Back Again
3.2: Enter the Pandaman
3.3: The Hoodie That Sparked a Movement

Narrating Our Way to Power
4.1: Attention to Narrative
4.2: Stories and Histories
4.3: Symbols of Iteration

Chaos Magic
5.1: The Meme Election
5.2: Bodies and Minds
5.3: Fake, Fake, Fake, Fake

A Contest of Memes
6.1: Where the Wind Blows
6.2: The State of Affairs
6.3: Power Play

7.1: The Rise of the Goat
7.2: Signs and Seeds


“[An] incisive and illuminating study.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“This is a thoughtful and engaging look at the complex role and power of memes in global politics and social movements and a worthy addition to media and internet studies collections.” —Booklist

Memes to Movements is essential reading. An Xiao Mina is one of the best people writing about memes today and unpacks with great urgency, understanding, empathy, and wisdom all the reasons why memes matter, how integral they are to the ways we communicate, and how they shape and change society. Memes are the essential unit of cultural exchange, and An’s work demonstrates why we should be taking them seriously.” —Jonny Sun, author and illustrator of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too

“Weaving together global cases of meme culture, activism, and misinformation, An Xiao Mina brilliantly reveals how internet culture, social movements, and political agendas are intimately entwined. Memes to Movements is essential for anyone invested in activism or geopolitics. By analyzing the evolution of digital social and political activity, this book offers a critical intervention at a moment when the public is anxious about technology and political life.” —danah boyd, author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

“A visionary and sweeping history of the internet phenomenon, Memes to Movements is a must-read for anyone concerned about how our wildly complex society can evolve with the tools technology has given us—for better or for worse. It is an all too timely book that shows how urgently we need to understand the impact of the algorithms, codes, and hidden structures that have become tools of both liberation and oppression. Whatever your thoughts about our digitized world, this brilliant and original book will challenge them to evolve.” —Paul D. Miller, aka Dj Spooky, author of Rhythm Science

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