Internet jokes: The secret agents of globalization?

Limor Shifman, Hadar Levy, Mike Thelwall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In this article, we use the somewhat unusual lens of joke translation to examine the process of "user-generated globalization" - cross-national diffusion of content by Internet users. We tracked the translations of 100 popular jokes in English into 9 languages and analyzed them quantitatively and qualitatively. Our findings indicate that (1) web-based diffusion of translated jokes is common but varies greatly, both between languages and between jokes; (2) "global hits" differ from "translation-resistant" jokes in their themes and incorporation of American markers; and (3) translated joke versions tend to include only minor cultural alternations (such as name shifting), thereby preserving the original messages. Overall, these findings suggest that Internet jokes serve as powerful (albeit often invisible) agents of globalization and Americanization.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)727-743
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Americanization
  • Globalization
  • Internet
  • Jokes
  • Translation


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