The medium is the joke: Online humor about and by networked computers

Limor Shifman*, Menahem Blondheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This article explores the uncharted territory of reflexive internet humor about networked computers. A combined quantitative-qualitative analysis of 250 texts sampled from popular websites yielded a map of the main themes underpinning this massive corpus of humor. We analyzed them in relation to three grand theories of the nature of humor - superiority, release, and incongruity - locating each theme on a matrix deriving from the theories: (i) a superiority axis, running between the powerful and weak players in the networked environment; (ii) an incongruity axis, running from the purely human to the strictly technical, and (iii) a release axis reflecting degrees of tension generated by the former two dualities. Our analysis suggests that humor about networked computers extends to a comment on the nature of humanness in a bewildering age of artificial intelligence. The communication of this reflexive comment may be shaping a global community of computer users.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1348-1367
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • ICT-humor
  • Luddism
  • Microsoft
  • computers
  • geeks
  • human-machine interface
  • humor
  • internet
  • jokes
  • tech support


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