If you've been on social media long enough, you know what memes are. If you're an architect who's been on social media long enough, you know of architectural memes.
Here's why I find them fascinating :
- They often have a sarcastic tone of commenting, introducing humor into an otherwise too serious group of people who pretentiously wear black.
- They don't intellectualize an idea (Case in point are blogs - So much text, such little attention spans). Memes, instead, are as casual as it gets, and you don't have to click any link in any bio, swipe up on any page, etc.
- They have an inherent Mass appeal - Being on social media platforms, the birthplace of memes, they are already catching your eye before you've begun to read it.
- They're more visual - With less text and more image (Again, bye blogs), they cater to the platforms at their graphic best.
- They can really help perpetuate ideas - Calls for action, showcase the flaws in our processes and systems and also bolster strides in the right direction.
- They allow you to participate in the commentary, actively or passively, and this is something the field struggles with, to get students and peers to contribute to the conversation.
Memes, I would go as far to say, are a breakthrough for architectural communication and connection with the masses. For how esoteric, isolated and self-contained our profession is, here's a way for us to connect with the larger population that forms our client base. When we confront memes with different audience groups, we come to realize that there are niches within which memes can be successful. Memes that students would get v/s practicing architects v/s clients v/s anyone who's heard of architects. The references of a meme just need to make sure that the joke has reach and be able to answer for itself "Who's inside on this joke?"
As I've mentioned before, one of the main reasons meme's are so successful is because of their visuals. It also brings with itself, the limits of what can be conveyed on a square box, meant for a 5 second attention span. This most often means, getting rid of any context that might make it more comprehensible, yet having enough context to be comprehensible. And so, memes often boil down to being a device for criticism. The most effective forms of criticism have both commentary and further probing on the subject. Memes seem to lean more into the commentary side of it. It can also be argued that asking for further probing might be too much for a 5 second attention span. But I wonder if there are ways for memes to do both ?
I guess we'll just have to scroll and see. Memes are increasingly becoming more effective in their ways of communicating without being esoteric and are slowly bringing our conversations into mainstream media. To squeeze important and relevant ideas into our feed is already a win, so I'll take that for now, as we see where social media takes us further.