Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Mass Communications

First Advisor

Vogan, Travis

Second Advisor

Eko, Lyombe

First Committee Member

Perlmutter, David D

Second Committee Member

Ekdale, Brian

Third Committee Member

Reisinger, William


This dissertation explores the process of meaning transformation in digital participatory culture by examining the replication, mutation and circulation that iconic news images undergo in cyberspace through Internet memes. With triangulation of visual historical analysis, visual rhetorical analysis and iconographic tracking, the project argues that members of remix culture weaponize the digital derivatives of the famous images through manipulation to renegotiate history, dispense social justice in the absence of other recourse and engage in political activism.

Such transformations, as this project shows, are likely to weaken the rhetorical powers of iconic images to define collective memory, a role they have played for decades. With the use of Internet memes, members of the public can now re-remember history outside the iconic accounts, producing their own interpretations of events that contribute to public discourse. Internet memes that exist alongside their iconic visual counterparts democratize the process of meaning making and remembering in remix culture, promoting polyvocality in favor of singular versions of the past. Such fragmentation of master narratives highlights the changing role of iconic pictures in the process of signification thanks to technology.

Keywords: Iconic images, Internet memes, signification, digital participatory culture, collective memory.


collective memory, Iconic image, meme, participatory culture, signification


x, 288 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 270-288).


Copyright © 2016 Natalia Mielczarek