The Political Life of Memes with An Xiao Mina

Episode Summary

Memes are increasingly part of protest movements, but how do we understand their role and purpose? A new book helps us figure it out.

Episode Notes

Memes are the street art of the social web, and they are becoming more central to the political and cultural conversations we have. In her new book, Memes to Movements: How the World's Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power, An Xiao Mina helps us understand how memes influenced the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, Black Lives Matter in the United States, and Women’s Marches around the world. She explores how memes can help people express public dissent in environments where that can be downright dangerous.

As one of Hyperallergic's original contributors, An Xiao Mina is no stranger to Hyperallergic readers. In her latest project, she continues to challenge us to think critically about the online world and the role of art in the formation of this brave new social terrain. She also discusses her time working at Ai Weiwei’s studio, her internet research in Uganda, and her current job working in the Bay Area’s robust tech scene developing tools for journalists and other online citizens.

The music for this episode is “Grass-Mud Horse Cartoon and Rap (Cao Ni Ma),” which was one of the many versions of the Grass-Mud Horse song that emerged anonymously in China approximately a decade ago to protest internet censorship. This version, An Xiao Mina’s favorite, is featured in this episode. Also, a special thanks to Jason Li for allowing us to use his illustration for Memes to Movements as this week’s cover art.