My group’s topic for our Meme Presentation was the ‘yodeling Walmart boy’ meme, which is arguably the most popular meme of Spring 2018. I wasn’t able to meet with my group on our initial in-class work day, which I regret, since our group got along great and had a strong work ethic this semester; something I’ve found to be fairly uncommon in college. My portion of the presentation was providing a brief explanation and interpretation of the ‘spreadable’ vs ‘viral’ media debate discussed and analyzed by Henry Jenkins. The initial article posted on D2L didn’t give me enough of an understanding of the debate, so I looked for other sources online. I found an article that talked more about Jenkins’ book based on the topic and provided excerpts from an email interview with him, and I found it to help with my comprehension of ‘spreadable’ vs. ‘viral’ media much more.
I noticed that I had a far different interpretation of the debate compared to other groups. From what I understood, Henry Jenkins believes that using the term ‘viral’ to describe media is flawed because it uses a biological term to define a communicative process. Using ‘viral’ to even metaphorically describe media isn’t appropriate, because it limits our ability to “adequately describe media circulation as a complex system”. If something ‘goes viral’, we assume that it’s currently trending or popular, but there’s no explanation as to how or why that media has become so popular. The term, because it’s based in biological phenomena, incorrectly suggests that media just happens to go viral on its own. ‘Spreadable’ is a better way to describe media because people actively and consciously chose to share it, repurpose it, modify it, remix it, etc. We don’t have that kind of decision when it comes to spreading a real virus, like the common cold. Spreadable media is a more accurate term than viral media because it emphasizes the importance of consumer involvement. This is why my group chose to define our meme, Mason the Walmart yodeler, as an example of spreadable media, given all the different ways it’s been repurposed, modified, remixed, and spread on different platforms by different people.