Jeffrey Achierno, San Francisco State University

Jeffrey Achierno is in his last year as an MA student at San Francisco State University. He has a wide variety of academic interests, including visual culture as well as Renaissance literature. He’s originally from Colorado.


In his 1985 article, “Photography and Fetish,” Christian Metz discussed both photography and film on their own merits of being viable fetishes. For Metz, film could not be considered a fetish because of the plurality, movement, and noise of many images. Instead, he felt that film played on fetishism. Photography on the other hand was very much capable of being a fetish, as it is a single image, lends itself to reality, and makes us focus more on one subject. Part of Metz’s decision was perhaps based on the physicality of the photograph, as a photograph can be kept in a pocket, held, and mastered, while “a film cannot be touched, cannot be carried and handled: although the actual reels can, the projected film cannot” (88). With over thirty years passing from when Metz wrote the essay to the present day and the changes in technology in that time, his argument that film is not a fetish may no longer be credible. Given these technological advancements and ever-evolving mass and social media, however, it becomes evident that there exists a need to examine new cultural objects as possible fetishes, and accordingly I will here examine one such example: the internet meme. The primary goal is to determine whether a meme is a fetish or, like Metz says of film, it is playing on fetishism.

Internet Memes and the Fetish: Critical Analysis of an Emerging Cultural Artifact

If one were to open the social media of any regular user of the internet, they would undoubtedly encounter at least one meme. Memes are an incredibly common presence across all of social media as well as the larger internet. Yet, despite this fact, there is a noticeable latency to study contemporary – and digital – artifacts of the present day, such as memes. Perhaps the novelty of these artifacts gives them the connotation of non-theoretical rigor or perhaps they seem like a passing fad unworthy of the same criticism applied to the great works of art or literature. Whatever the cause, as more time elapses, the more human culture turns towards the digital, and the more that a need arises for critical analysis into these digital cultural artifacts. In an attempt to rectify the lack of critical discourse on digital culture, this paper chooses to focus on internet memes, one of the most pervasive and proliferating cultural artifacts of the digital age, in relation to the concept of the “fetish,” or an object with inherent mystical power or value over a person. Perhaps such an assertion appears too obvious or simple to make. Certainly, there are qualities of the fetish to be found in many if not all cultural artifacts. However, critical analysis will allow investigation into whether the internet meme has the capability of being a fetish or whether it is only capable of “playing on fetishism.”[1] In the study of a novel cultural object such as internet memes, this question of fetish or fetishism seems a central one.

Before the question of fetish can even be approached, however, it is important that the concept of the meme be precisely defined. A memeticist, those who study memes or memetics, would define a meme as “a unit of expression that has cultural meaning. Memes are often ideas, jingles, catch-phrases, or images, that spread from person to person” (Hansen 239). The term meme, however, is older than the current usage of it, and this contemporary, memetic definition is not much different than when it was first used. Coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, the term ‘meme’ was an attempt to apply evolutionary theory to culture. Dawkins defined it as small units of culture that spread from one person to another through copy or imitation.[2] The word itself, “meme,” was derived from the Greek mimema, meaning “copy” or “imitation,” which Dawkins adapted to sound similar to “gene.”For Dawkins, memes were cultural analogies of genes – replicators that, like genes, are subjected to competition, selection, and variation; and like genes, only those that are suited to their (cultural) environment survive, while those that are not suited will die off. Cultural artifacts that Dawkins found to be examples of memes were fashion, musical tunes, and catchphrases. The only true difference between Dawkins’ and the current, memetic definition is the clear biologic theoretical analogy. This biologic metaphor, however, has certainly created an issue in the critical study and analysis of memes.

While the definition of meme makes them the cultural equivalent to the biological gene, it also, whether purposefully or inadvertently, makes them analogous to viruses (Schifman 11). Taking an epidemiological model, the meme-as-virus analogy views memes as infectious agents, which is problematic because it conceptualizes human interaction with memes as passive – vectors of trivial media infecting an unsuspecting host of humanity. Another model places more of an active role on the individual, not as a host, but as a participating actor in the creation and dissemination of memes. Rosaria Conte, in her “Memes through (social) minds” chapter of Darwinizing Culture (2000), is one of the first to suggest such a model. For Conte, the model of meme-as-virus does not account for the decision-making on the terms of the individual – mechanisms such as emotional expression, belief, and social conformity. In this new model, the questions concerning memes are not centered on their residence in the brain but how they’re implemented in the mind, or more simply put, not how a meme infects the individual’s brain, but how the individual interacts with the meme.[3] Henry Jenkins, and colleagues, employ a model that also focuses on the activity of the individual. His model, termed as a spreadable model, “emphasizes the activity of consumers – or what Grant McCracken calls “multipliers” – in shaping the circulation of media content, often expanding potential meanings and opening up brands to unanticipated new markets. Rather than emphasizing the direct replication of ‘memes’, a spreadable model assumes that the repurposing and transformation of media content adds value, allowing media content to be localized to diverse contexts of use.”[4] This spreadable model, then, does not view the individual beholden to the meme, but the meme as currency in a cultural economy. These models then accentuate the role of individual, consumer or ‘multiplier’, in the dissemination of memes, which is a key component in the production and proliferation of internet memes.

Internet memes are not memes in the memetic sense of the term. What is being examined here is the re-appropriated term “meme” employed by the participants of internet culture. These kinds of memes are considered by memeticists to be short-lived fads, an idea expressed in a mixed media – usually in some combination of text, image, movement, and/or audio. The application of this appropriated term “meme” is for observable content like YouTube videos and humorous images. It is very unlikely, according to those like Conte, that these memes will have serious cultural impact or even the shelf-life enjoyed by memes in the memetic, academic sense of the term.[5] Certainly, then, this raises questions of why one would give any cultural, or critical, importance to these short-lived, faddish, digital memes. The answer is arguable in two different points. First, in a reassertion of the opening point of this paper – that as more culture becomes digitized, the more dire a need for critical examination of these objects becomes; and two, despite assertions by “serious” memeticists, there is actual value in these memes, because, as any internet user will immediately tell you, they reflect current and immediate social and cultural emotions, moods, and desires. As Schifman points out, “Internet memes can be treated as (post)modern folklore, in which shared norms and values are constructed through cultural artifacts such as Photoshopped images or urban legends” (15). Most criticism on memes, particularly digital memes, focuses on their distribution and dissemination from person to person, such as the three properties of meme dissemination that Dawkins developed. That is not the focus of this paper. What is the focus here is the meme and its relation to the individual. In this way I am defining an internet meme as a digital item composed of mixed media, containing awareness of its position within an eco-system of similar digital content, created, distributed, imitated, and transformed across the internet by multiple users.[6] That idea brings up another important point, the specific genre of memes being analyzed here. ‘Internet meme’ is merely an umbrella term applied to large swaths of viral internet cultural objects – from photoshop images, to YouTube videos, to gifs. It would be untenable for a single paper to thoroughly analyze internet memes in their entirety, with all their various genres, as fetish. What may prove true for one kind of meme, a gif or YouTube video, may not prove true for another, such as a photoshopped image.

Figure 1.

Instead, I will narrow the focus of analysis here to internet memes that are single image, image-based, whether that be an image macro (Figure 1) or a screenshot of Twitter or Tumblr.[7] In analyzing these memes, I hope to emphasize the importance of singular images, as well as the uniqueness inherent to these kinds of memes. What is being analyzed are the qualities of memes that cause an individual to save them, hold onto them, removing them, in a sense, from circulation. A key aspect of these memes, arguably, is their humor. As previously stated, these memes are marked as identifying with the user, which causes them to be saved, and humor is the means through which this identification takes place. This paper is not concerned with virality of internet memes at all, and in some way, hopes to argue against internet memes as a biologic analogy, reconceptualizing the internet meme as an object of memory. Finally, there are other types of memes that exist which will not be analyzed in the course of the paper. Schifman discusses a few of them in her “Meme Genres” chapter in Memes in Digital Culture: flash mobs, lip-synch, misheard lyrics, and recut trailers.

In addition to defining the meme, and connecting the meme with the concept of fetish, the characteristics of the fetish require analysis as well.[8] The first key concept of the fetish is an irreducible materiality. All fetishes have a material embodiment – their value is tied to this materiality.  All senses of the term fetish – Marxist commodity fetish, psychoanalytical sexual fetish, and modernism’s fetish as art – are bound to the essentiality of the object’s materiality. This immediately presents a problem for memes, because there is no immediate, material tangibility to them, or any other meme – they originate digitally. The question then becomes whether a fetish can exist that has transcended materiality? The answer, I believe, is yes. As artifacts turn to the digital, they have a less tangible existence but still maintain a presence.[9] While there is undeniably an element of fetish that is tied to the material, the cultural concept of fetish would hardly disappear in a fully digital world.

Figure 2.

A second important characteristic of the fetish is that of the theme of singularity and repetition. In this characteristic, singularity has two meanings. The first is singular in the sense of a singular object. Pietz states that a fetish object is an object that “has brought together previously heterogeneous elements into a novel identity” (Pietz 7). From this, we understand that a fetish is always a composite object. This does not only refer to the material components of the fetish object, but also refers to the desires and beliefs and narrative structures establishing a practice which are fixed (or fixated) by the fetish (7). There is another sense to the singular, however, which is the singularity of the event. Fetishes are structured so that they are fixated on a unique, singular event. It is this idea of fixation resulting in repetitive compulsion which structures desire that is so specific to the psychoanalytic sexual fetish. In this way, the fetish object’s identity is tied to the repetitive fixation from the singular event. In relation to memes, the event is the moment of readability. When one encounters a meme, they read it, and should they relate to it, there is a moment of recognition and relation. A new identity is created in a sense, articulated from the mood or idea expressed by the meme. The viewer’s identity is at once remade as well as reaffirmed. They would then save it – either on their phone, laptop, or tablet – for the direct of purpose of being able to refer again to it, reaffirming this ‘new’ identity. The moment of fixation in this case is the moment that this ‘new’ identity came into being with the original reading of the meme. Presenting a concrete example, Figure 2 – the image is a screenshot from Tumblr, featuring a character from Thomas the Tank Engine with a dissatisfied expression on his face. The look of dissatisfaction is recognized by those of the internet which appropriate the image for their own mood. The evolution from homework to daily expression depicts the evolution of identification from a specific situation to personal characteristic.

The last two characteristics of the fetish are ultimately linked together – the theme of social value and the theme of personal individuality. Personal individuality is highly relevant because the fetish object is a deeply personal one. It is only a fetish when a material object’s power is established through the relation of desire and identity linked by the person, “experienced as a substantial movement from ‘inside’ the self…into the self-limited morphology of a material object situated in space ‘outside’” (11-12). So, we can recognize the fetish as one’s own identity projected onto a solid, material object which then is used for the personal purposes of the individual. What occurs in the interaction between object and individual is that the fetish is used as a catalyst to recall the identity of the self being ‘touched’ – the moment of ‘crisis’ – which results in the identity of the self being called into questioned or put at risk by this encounter with something outside itself. It is these crisis moments of singular encounter which become fixed, as the personal memories retain power over the individual. These encounters are stripped of all symbolic value – perhaps because such encounters lack any adequate formal code to transform them into meaningful communications or coherent narrations. Additionally, and paradoxically because of this degradation from any recognizable value code, the fixating encounter becomes a crisis moment of infinite value, expressing the sheer incommensurable togetherness of the living existence of the personal self and the living otherness of the material world. Memes occupy a space within internet culture, and the usage of them has resulted in a form of cultural capital.[10] While the images are free to create and have no value inherently, an individual who can accurately reflect the cultural moment through the use of memes themselves reflects this “objective illusion” inherent to the social value aspect of the fetish. Individuals collect, create, modify and share memes as a means of both expressing the personal and driving a social value that is well beyond the value of its components.

Pietz says that there are four fundamental categories linked to the fetish: historicization, territorialization, reification, and personalization. Fixation upon the singular event drives the historicization. The linking of the fetish object with the singular event, in this case the meme and the original reading moment, marks the object as a ‘historical’ object. This historical object is territorialized in material space – presented in the form of either geographic location, a site on the human body, or a medium of meaning through a portable or wearable thing. The phone is the obvious representation of this concept. This historical object is territorialized in ‘reification’: some moveable property or shape whose status is that of a self-contained entity identifiable within the territory. Its status as an object of social value within systems of a given society is what marks it as a recognizable, discrete thing – a res, according to Pietz. And personalized because of the deeply personal response that the object evokes.

Metz says that “fetishes exist in the world as material objects that ‘naturally’ embody socially significant values that touch one or more individuals in an intensely personal way: a flag, monument, or landmark; a talisman, medicine-bundle, or sacramental object; an earring, tattoo, or cockade; a city, village, or nation; a shoe, lock of hair, or phallus; a Giacometti sculpture or Duchamp’s Large Glass” (13-14). The very idea that a (cultural) object could make an individual identify with it, in sense extending their own identity onto said object, marks it as deeply personal. He also states that “the fetish is precisely not a material signifier referring beyond itself, but acts as a material space gathering an otherwise unconnected multiplicity into the unity of its enduring singularity” (15). Thus, the fetish is meant to be an entirely self-contained object, holding value ascribed to it by the individual. An example of this is in Figure 3.  The composition of this meme, two tweets together, literally refer to the image of the in the center. The composition creates an encapsulation of adorableness beyond that of the image itself – the encapsulation itself now a token to be coveted.

            Now that we understand the fetish a bit better, and have somewhat related it to internet memes, we turn to solidify the place of memes as fetish through a comparative analysis with photography and its interpretation as fetish.[11] The first thing to note is the spacio-temporal size of the lexis – the socialized unit of reading. The cinematic lexis is a gigantic amalgamation of images, sounds, and movement. The time required for its reception is predetermined by the length of the film. These two aspects are not so for the photographic lexis – a silent rectangular image, whose reading time has no set temporal duration. Between these two different kinds of lexis, the memetic lexis is most similar to that of the photographic – a rectangular silent image, whose reading time is not temporally predetermined. Another difference between film and photography is the literal, social use between the cinematic and the photographic. Film has been associated with entertainment or art as determined by both the work itself and the social group. This perception of film as art in turn associates film with fiction. While photography can also be art (and fiction), the accessibility of photography givens it a presumed relationship to the real and the private. Film and collectivity, photography and privacy. In such a dichotomy, the memes would seem to occupy a medium space. The literal social use of memes “is to pledge allegiance to your in-group… seen as a public declaration of your political positions and cultural identity, and, increasingly, an invitation for people with opposing viewpoints to come sass (or harass) you in the comments.”[12] Memes are already objects that are based in collectively, produced and spread by a multitude of people, like movies or TV. This harkens back to the already-discussed model of memes-as-viruses: they arise and spread. Despite this, image-based memes in particular share the deeply personal nature of the fetish object, as well as sharing the ability to be saved. As such, they have the potential to be like photographs – objects that are to be kept like a souvenir or a keepsake, a memento or memento (Metz 82).

            As previously discussed, the fetish need not be iconic. Metz says, “Peirce called indexical the process of signification in which the signifier is bound to the referent not by a social convention (= ‘symbol’), not by some similarity (= ‘icon’), but by an actual contiguity or connection in the world: the lighting is the index of the storm” (82). Metz argues that both film and photography are similar in that they are both indexical. He also says Peirce considered photography to be both index and icon, since it is a print of something real. Are memes indexical or symbolic? Metz says that Peirce considers photography to be both index and icon. Photograph is “closer to the pure index, stubbornly pointing to the print of what was, but no longer is” (83). Memes also lie between index and icon. They are frequently indices to emotion, such as in Figure 1 where the image shows a sense of disgust that the individual connects with internally.

            The last difference that Metz goes to compare is the difference in the nature of both expressions in film and photography. Film consists of both auditory and visual perception – a series of photographs, sound bites, and movement. Photography, on the other hand, is silent and immobile. Now memes in the full sense can include both visual and auditory components, such as can be found in flash mobs, lip synchs, and recut trailers.[13] Memes of concern here, however, share with the photograph the quality of being a single, silent image.

            It is these two aspects of photography – silence and immobility – which causes Metz to then turn the relation of death and the photograph. Photography is linked to death through the cultural practice of keeping photographs in memory of loved ones who are no longer alive. While Metz interprets this through the lens of death, I will focus more on the idea of memory. Here I want to repurpose the concept of the meme. Schifman, in his history of the term, states that in 1870 Austrian sociologist Ewald Hering coined a similar term to signify cultural evolution, “die Mneme.” This term, also derived from Greek, came from mneme, meaning memory (Schifman 10). Despite ‘meme’ originally having a cultural equivalent of biology, a critical reconceptualization of meme in relation to memory would fit better with the understanding that internet memes are seen as a reflection of social moods or idea – holding a memory of a sort – but also as fetish object, being a holder of a specific moment of repetition. In relation to this, Metz compares photography to a mirror – one that is more faithful than any actual mirror because it records our aging while a mirror changes with us. Memes are thus also mirrors, ones that reflect immediately the current social and cultural emotions, moods, and desires.

            A third aspect that Metz says photography has with death is that the snapshot, like death, ushers an object into another kind of world. “[Philippe] Dubois remarks that with each photograph, a tiny piece of time brutally and forever escapes its ordinary fate, and thus is protected against its own loss…the fetish, too, means both loss (symbolic castration) and protection against loss” (Metz 84). When one saves a meme, are they not cutting it off from the rest of the world, and in a sense saving it from their eventual fate of dying off? The saved meme is cut off from the cultural ecosystem, but it is the cultural ecosystem which will eventually kill it. Metz presents that film could be said to give back a sense of life to the dead, while photography “by virtue of the objective suggestions of its signifier (stillness, again) maintains the memory of the dead as being dead” (84). Memes are like the photograph in that they maintain the memory, but they also reassert their own demise. In an attempt to save the meme from death, are we not also hastening it on its way? The very act of saving the meme, turning it from an immediate and salient representation of a cultural moment into a saved image on one’s phone is nothing more than a pinned fly under glass. Like the photograph, the image-based meme is a cut off piece of space and time, paradoxically immortal but also dead.

            Metz explicitly discusses the psychoanalytic sexual fetish – the role of the fetish in this sense is to arrest the look, disavowing the child’s awareness that not all people have penises. The fetish thus operates in dual meanings – metonymically, it alludes to the nearby place of lack, and metaphorically, acting as an equivalent to the penis, as the primordial displacement of the look and it replacing an absence by a presence (86). Despite not being interested in the fetish in the psychoanalytic sense, it raises the question of whether memes can operate metonymically and metaphorically. A meme, metonymically refers to the expression of emotion that it indexes while metaphorically it represents an overcoming or mastery of that same emotion: self-awareness as self-mastery.

             What is markedly different about memes is that there is no off-frame space. Both film and photography have, according to Metz, off-frame space. For film, off-frame is part of the temporal flow, one object or character on frame in one moment may be out of frame a moment later. For photography, someone or something off-frame will never enter the frame. This, according to Metz, lends to the sense of lack found in the Freudian theory of the fetish. It is this off-frame aspect, for Metz, that fits into the (Freudian) fetish, figuring castration, where the look is averted forever. Thus, the photograph shares the “properties of the fetish (as object), if not directly of fetishism (as activity)” (87). Memes, in this case of comparison, have no off-frame space, implied or otherwise. A meme is a closed unit of presence, reflecting the mood of the one who saves it.

Film cannot be contained, both in the sense of its ‘more-than-a-moment’-ness and at the time Metz wrote this (1986), he talked of only being able to hold the reels. He says that “A fetish has to be kept, mastered, held, like the photograph in the pocket” (87). A meme, despite being digital, allows for this tangibility. You can hold on to it, save it, master it, keep it in your pocket (on your phone). Film is an activator of fetishism. It mimes the displacement of the look with the seen absence, despite the nearby presence. Memes do not have this. They are not activators of fetishism. They do not mime anything. They merely are fetish objects. Because of film’s largeness, it allows us to experience and believe in many things at once. Photography is able to limit our attention, hone it onto one thing, a single object, and concentrate our attention. The same is true of memes. It focuses on the mood or idea it is attempting to represent or evoke.

The last thing, in a comparative discussion of photography, that should be brought up in relation to the meme as fetish concept is Barthes’ idea of the punctum. Barthes presents two concepts in his reflections on photography, Camera Lucida – the studium and the punctum. The studium is the cultural denotation of a photograph that allows the viewer to participate: figures, faces, gestures, settings, and actions in the photograph (Barthes 26).  For Barthes, “the studium is that very wide field of unconcerned desire, of various interest, of inconsequential taste: I like / I don’t like. The studium is of the order of liking, not of loving; it mobilizes a half desire, a demi-volition; it is the same sort of vague, slippery, irresponsible interest one takes in the people, the entertainments, the books, the clothes one finds ‘all right’” (27). It is the studium which most of internet memes consist of. An internet user might encounter a meme – an image macro, in the instance of our discussions of images – laugh, share it, or alter it and share it, and then move on. It is the punctum which is so key to the concept of memes as fetish.  The punctum – so named because it stings or pricks the viewer – is the one aspect, or detail, which draws the viewer’s attention and holds it. This is the deeply personal component which is so essential to the fetish. In the meme it is a specific element which relates the mood or idea of the meme which allows the viewer to identify it, which makes them want to save, capture, and master it. If we return to Figure 1, this might be the image of the Thomas the Tank Engine character. Or it might be something less concrete, the image with text – ‘I look like this’. Whatever the case, it is the punctum of the meme which causes the viewer to save it.

            The discussion here of the internet meme as fetish is certainly not complete. Only tentative steps have been taken towards the idea of internet meme as fetish. Further analysis should branch off from this analyzing the additional ways that the changes in technology have impacted previous arguments defining what sorts of objects could constitute a fetish. For example, what Metz said of film was that because the film itself is unholdable it could not be a fetish – however, phones can now be “held” virtually on phones and as posts in social media. Additionally, social media posts themselves provide a certain physicality which could be analyzed in terms of the physicality of the fetish, the sensory experience now being attached to the “virtual self” of the social media profiles, timelines, blogs, and stories. However, by providing a deeper focus on the most proximal genre of meme to the photograph, the definition of fetish was incrementally expanded while simultaneously introducing the internet meme as a cultural artifact that merits critical interpretation and analysis.[14]

Works Cited

Hanson, Jarice. “Meme”. The Social Media Revolution : An Economic Encyclopedia of Friending, Following, Texting, and Connecting. ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2016.

Barthes, Roland., and Geoff. Dyer. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Pbk. ed., Hill and Wang, 2010.

Metz, Christian. “Photography and Fetish.” October, vol. 34, 1985, pp. 81–90.

Pietz, William. “The Problem of the Fetish, I.” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, vol. 9, no. 1, 1985, pp. 5–17.

Shifman, Limor. Memes in Digital Culture. The MIT Press, 2013.

Figures and Examples

Figure 1, “Evil Cows – They tipped us in our sleep. We burned them in their beds.”, Know Your Meme,

Figure 2, “Thomas the Tank Engine – Do you ever just look at your homework like this?”, Know Your Meme,

Figure 3, “I’ll die for it too”, Imgur,

[1] This question is one that arises out of Christian Metz’s essay, “Photography and Fetish”, in which he examines the forms of film and photography as they relate to the fetish and fetishism. Stating at the end of his essay, “After this long digression, I turn back to my topic and purpose, only to state that they could be summed up in one sentence: film is more capable of playing on fetishism, photography more capable of itself becoming a fetish” (90).

[2] Dawkins presents three basic properties that allow memes to successfully spread – longevity, fecundity, and copy fidelity.

[3] See “Memes through (social) minds”.

[4] See “Memes through (social) minds”.

[5] This feeling is expressed by Michele Knobel and Collin Lankshear in the opening of their chapter in their co-edited book, A New Literacies Sampler. See their chapter, “Online Memes, Affinities, and Cultural Production”.

[6] I choose to break with Schifman’s definition where she defines an internet meme as “a group of digital items sharing common characteristics of content, form, and/or stance” (41). I can’t argue the inherent intertextuality of internet memes. For the purpose of considering meme as fetish, however, a meme does not, and rarely does I believe, need to be part of a group.

[7] Image macros are understood to be memes that feature a picture with superimposed text. The most common type of image macro is text centered on both the top and the bottom of the meme, the image in the center being understood by internet users to signify a specific joke or context. An example of an image macro would be the “Evil Cows” meme, which is an advice animal meme – a group of memes that feature animals with captions to represent the archetype that fits their respective roles as stock characters. The caption for this type of image macro is first-person confessions of revenge, usually including some reference to either the farming or fast food industries. For more information, see “Evil Cows” on

[8] All characteristics of the fetish presented here are based on Pietz’s discussion of fetishism in his essay “Problem of the Fetish”.

[9] Perhaps a pun on the psychoanalytic fetish which places importance on the concept of presence.

[10] Schifman turns to the work done by Asaf Nissenboim, who studied memetic practices on 4chan, an internet forum website where users post content anonymously. See Nissenboim’s “Lurk More, It’s Never Enough: Memes as Social Capital on 4chan”

[11] Obviously, this section relies on Christian Metz’s analysis of the fetish in relation to film and photography.

[12] Angela Watercutter and Emma Grey Ellis, “The Wired Guide to Memes”, Wired, April 1, 2018,

[13] See “Meme Genres” in Memes in Digital Culture

[14] The expansion was, at least I hope, in the material characteristic of the fetish, to included the digital.