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Virality and Morphogenesis of Right Wing Internet Populism


Eva Kimminich and Julius Erdmann

Information and its individual interpretations are highly discussed in social media. Their use and misuse is an important subject for cultural and media studies. The theoretical framework of this volume is based on a synopsis of socio-constructivist and semiotic paradigms, which permit insight into ongoing adjustments of the social perception of reality and the thereby changing benchmarks. The assembled micro-studies concentrate primarily on right-wing Internet populism in Germany, France and Italy and allow a more precise idea of the effects the disseminated myths, metaphors and memes can have: Becoming viral, they can have an influence on a society’s semiosphere, i.e.on common sense and social life.

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Pokémon and the PETA


Viral Extremeness as a Semiotic Strategy

Abstract: While using social media, it is quite common to come across violent images like those of slaughters, usually spread by certain forms of animal rights movements. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for example, founded several of their campaigns on videos based on a gory hyper-realistic aesthetics, in order to sensitize their audience. A specific semiotic strategy underlies the use of these kinds of visual texts: They are disgusting and disturbing, but at the same time they have attractive power. From a semiotic perspective it is therefore necessary to understand, firstly, the plastic/figurative components and, secondly, the narrative pattern that characterize extremeness. These two dimensions in the semiosic grammar of extreme images are strictly interconnected. The animals in the images suffer and are condemned to death and this narrative path should convert disgust into empathy. It is consequently appropriate to affirm that extremeness is a matter of semiotics, which not only can schematize the relation from the visual to the narrative level, but also go further, analyzing the discursive peculiarity of extremeness, its ability to leave the text and to spread itself through discursive practices. The extremeness of images of slaughter travels with its images, but also beyond them, producing discourses and practices, ideologies and conversions, as happens in the videogame parody Pokémon Black and Blue.

Keywords: PETA, social media, shock value, extremeness of images

1The Contemporary Mediascape of Animal Rights Movements...

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