BRINGING THE PANDEMIC HOME: MEMES AS LOCAL POLITICS AT TIMES OF GLOBAL CRISIS
AbstractIt was late February 2020 when part of Northern Italy entered the first Covid-19 lockdown of the West. While stories of people fleeing quarantined areas soon made national headlines, the international news was suddenly reporting of coronavirus patients connected to Italy all around the world. Against this background, Italian social media started thriving with Covid-19 humour. On 9 March the lockdown turned nationwide and became one of the strictest in Europe. By focusing on Covid-19 memes of quarantined Italy, this article explores the local - and mundane - appropriation of memetic practices, in both its cultural and political dimensions. We combined digital methods and netnographic techniques to generate and analyse a dataset of Covid-19 Twitter memes produced by Italian publics during the first national lockdown. This allowed us to follow the circulation - and evolution - of memetic practices, explore how cultural fabric contributed to different dimensions of meme production and categorise the emergence of political expression. Our findings show that Italian pandemic memes had a primarily affective function fed by past and present pop culture, local or sub-local stereotypes and popular public debates. Where political expression did emerge, it was never particularly innovative or new because it was there to mark previously established communal belonging driven by populist narratives more than to initiate contentious practices. Ultimately, this work suggests that memetic practices can highly intertwine with the geographically or linguistically local and point to the need for contextual approaches able to enhance our understanding of digital practices as shaped by local publics.
How to Cite
Murru, M. F., & Vicari, S. (2021). BRINGING THE PANDEMIC HOME: MEMES AS LOCAL POLITICS AT TIMES OF GLOBAL CRISIS. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12215