Meme templates as expressive repertoires in a globalizing world: A cross-linguistic study

Asaf Nissenbaum*, Limor Shifman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This study uses meme templates as a lens for exploring cultural globalization. By conceptualizing such templates as expressive repertoires that simultaneously enable and limit expression, we examined global and local dimensions of mainstream meme culture. We traced the top 100 templates in meme generators in English, German, Spanish, and Chinese, using 10 examples to typify each (n = 4000). Combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, we examined the forms, social identities, and emotions embedded in these templates. Our findings demonstrated that whereas meme templates are dominated by American/Western pop culture, local templates are also evident, especially in Chinese. Overall, memes are socially conservative yet emotionally disruptive; while they align with hegemonic representation patterns, their emotional palette tilts toward the negative, with anger as a major anchor and happiness expressed ironically. Finally, our findings suggested an individualism–collectivism puzzle, wherein emotions in memes seem to contradict the existing literature on cultural values.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)294-310
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Computer-Mediated Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Digital culture
  • Emotions
  • Globalization
  • Internet memes
  • Localization
  • Meme generators


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