This article connects the evolution and formation of contemporary Internet language with its graphical underpinnings, arguing that Internet language is a form of visual knowledge production that combines and layers image and text through a contested political economy. The authors focus on the linguistic contours of graphical representation and display by providing a brief media archaeology of contemporary Internet language, upsetting its separation into generational stages, and therefore a linear progression of its history. At the same time, the authors argue that contemporary Internet language elicits a subversive operation as it layers, allowing its graphical components to exceed acts of political censorship. The authors forward this argument in an economic context as well, examining how the graphical dimensions of contemporary Internet language are both delimited by and opposed to the restrictions of communicative capitalism. Taking the cultural battle between Universal Pictures’ Minions and Pepe the Frog as their primary example, the authors argue that some forms of graphical representation and display produce an anticapitalist concept of rarity when they function linguistically, attempting to protect the cultures that produce this kind of linguistic act from commodification.
Communicating Graphically: Mimesis, Visual Language, and Commodification as Culture
Matt Applegate is an assistant professor of English and digital humanities at Molloy College. His work focuses on the political economy of media, critical theory, and digital humanities. You can find his work in Theory and Event, Amodern, Telos, and more. See more at mapplega.com.
Jamie Cohen is the program director of the New Media Program at Molloy College in the Digital Humanities and New Media Department. He is currently a PhD student at Stony Brook University studying cultural studies and media archaeology. Cohen is the coauthor of Producing New and Digital Media: Your Guide to Savvy Use of the Web (2015).
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Matt Applegate, Jamie Cohen; Communicating Graphically: Mimesis, Visual Language, and Commodification as Culture. Cultural Politics 1 March 2017; 13 (1): 81–100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-3755204
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