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Memetic Rhetorics

Toward a Toolkit for Ethical Meming

Subjects: Media Studies, New Media
Open Access : 9780472903092, 88 illustrations, 1 video, February 2023

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the support of the Sweetland Center for Writing in making this book possible.
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Approaches memes from a rhetorical ethical perspective to examine what makes a successful meme and how memes operate in digital groups

Table of contents

Introduction: The Need for a Rhetorical Ethical Memetic Toolkit
Chapter 1: The Elements of a Memetic Rhetorical Toolkit—The Secret to a Successful Meme
Chapter 2: Memetic Screens and Signaling Belonging in and Drawing Boundaries for Feminist and Queer Digital Spaces
Chapter 3: An Ethical Framework for Memes and Privacy
Chapter 4: Countermeming to Flip Memetic Gender Narratives: The Case of Fake Geek Girl
Conclusion: Toward an Ethical Rhetorical Meme Pedagogy


Memes are omnipresent online and have become an increasingly important facet of not only the field of digital rhetorics, but of pop culture in general. What appear to be little more than funny images with a punchline, however, are actually powerful vehicles for culture and ideology. In Memetic Rhetorics, Derek M. Sparby untangles some of the complexities of memes by determining how memes function rhetorically in our society, examining rhetorical ethical considerations, highlighting how memes fuel cultural ideology, and finding ways to reveal and reject uncritical memetic behaviors. Through this careful look at the rhetoric and ethics of memes, Memetic Rhetorics demonstrates that memes manipulate and reflect culture and ideology and thus shape our identities and our world.

Derek M. Sparby is Associate Professor of Digital Rhetorics and Technical Communication at Illinois State University.

“Sparby does an excellent job providing a toolkit for understanding and creating memes. They provide deep analysis to offer insights into how to modify this heuristic further to create a sound and ethical approach. Sparby’s work offers digital literacy scholars a new set of practices and ideas for future analysis.”
—Ryan P. Shepherd, Ohio University

- Ryan P. Shepherd