Jon Santos is in his first year as a graduate student. Jon currently works as a graduate writing fellow in the English department at the Dougherty Family College. Jon also received his BA in English from the University of St. Thomas. Jon created a webpage for his final project in Dr. Alexis Easley‘s GENG 513: Issues in Criticism course.
My research on internet memes—yes, those funny pics of cats and dogs and Donald Trump’s tiny hands, but also so much more—began when I was an undergraduate at St. Thomas. As part of the Excel Research Program, I studied the ways that race and ethnicity were represented in a large sample of internet memes. I found that people of color were most likely to be racialized by these memes, and whiteness was often deracialized, or rendered invisible. While the project yielded interesting results at the time, this was way back in the summer of 2015. Since then, the specific internet memes that I had researched have become ancient history, swept up and replaced by newer trends and forms of digital content. The speed with which my research became outdated was itself a lesson to me, speaking to the unpredictability and particularity of the cultural texts I was dealing with.
Admittedly, this early research was constrained by my limited idea of what an internet meme could be. My work focused on one “genre” of internet meme, but left much to be said about the unique textual character of internet memes as a whole. The presentation of my research (a Word document with a few images) also felt inappropriate—like writing about typewriters with a quill pen. A study of digital media, at least in this case, requires greater implementation of the digital tools that we now have at our disposal.
In this second effort, I’ve used my amateur knowledge of HTML to design a website about internet memes more generally. Especially useful here was the ability to hyperlink other media from the site, as a lot of the research tended to extend beyond the reaches of a conventional Works Cited page. All in all, the project is meant as a work-in-progress, with space for ideas I intend to continue developing or that might be developed by others. It’s my hope that this website proves a better fit for a text that is defined by online sharing and shapeshifting—and which demands continual engagement and rethinking on the part of the researcher.
(Don’t worry, there’s still some funny cat pictures on here. Donald makes an appearance as well.)