Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Whatever do you meme? An analysis of the transformation in meaning of signs and symbols on 4chan

Whatever do you meme? An analysis of the transformation in meaning of signs and symbols on 4chan

Matthew Worpell 

4chan is an anonymous online message board that has been associated with notable transformations in meaning of benign signs and symbols into “Symbols of Hate”. “Pepe the Frog”, the “Ok” hand sign, and the phrase “it’s okay to be white” are used as examples of transformations of meaning in this paper. This article attempts to examine how the transformation in meaning of symbols such as those listed took place by the members of 4chan. Building on C.S. Pierce’s semiotic theory along with work previously done examining the transformations of specific memes like “Pepe the Frog”, this article hypothesizes the motivations behind the transformation. Through the use of literature review of previous work done on this topic and a simple discourse analysis of messages posted to 4chan, a hypothesized motivation begins to develop. The transformations in meaning for these symbols were artificially motivated and began as a statement of counterculture by members of 4chan regarding the hypervigilance of identifying symbols of hate in mainstream culture. The association of the symbols with hate groups became actualized when hate groups adopted those symbols for themselves. Further research could potentially look at reversing the association with hate groups for the symbols or how to successfully dissociate symbols from negative interpretations of those symbols altogether.

April 16, 2020 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Nice hypothesis. It makes sense that hyper-sensitivity to something might lead to overreaction; it would be interesting to see the development through examples. I would love to see future research that could lead to successful dissociations.

    Comment by Shannon Yee | April 22, 2020 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: