Ryan M. Milner

Ryan M. Milner is Associate Professor of Communication at the College of Charleston and author of The World Made Meme: Public Conversations and Participatory Media (MIT Press).

  • You Are Here

    You Are Here

    A Field Guide for Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape

    Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner

    How to understand a media environment in crisis, and how to make things better by approaching information ecologically.

    Our media environment is in crisis. Polarization is rampant. Polluted information floods social media. Even our best efforts to help clean up can backfire, sending toxins roaring across the landscape. In You Are Here, Whitney Phillips and Ryan Milner offer strategies for navigating increasingly treacherous information flows. Using ecological metaphors, they emphasize how our individual me is entwined within a much larger we, and how everyone fits within an ever-shifting network map.

    Phillips and Milner describe how our poisoned media landscape came into being, beginning with the Satanic Panics of the 1980s and 1990s—which, they say, exemplify “network climate change”—and proceeding through the emergence of trolling culture and the rise of the reactionary far right (as well as its amplification by journalists) during and after the 2016 election. They explore the history of conspiracy theories in the United States, focusing on those concerning the Deep State; explain why old media literacy solutions fail to solve new media literacy problems; and suggest how we can navigate the network crisis more thoughtfully, effectively, and ethically. We need a network ethics that looks beyond the messages and the messengers to investigate toxic information's downstream effects.

    • Paperback $22.95
  • The World Made Meme

    The World Made Meme

    Public Conversations and Participatory Media

    Ryan M. Milner

    How memetic media—aggregate texts that are collectively created, circulated, and transformed—become a part of public conversations that shape broader cultural debates.

    Internet memes—digital snippets that can make a joke, make a point, or make a connection—are now a lingua franca of online life. They are collectively created, circulated, and transformed by countless users across vast networks. Most of us have seen the cat playing the piano, Kanye interrupting, Kanye interrupting the cat playing the piano. In The World Made Meme, Ryan Milner argues that memes, and the memetic process, are shaping public conversation. It's hard to imagine a major pop cultural or political moment that doesn't generate a constellation of memetic texts. Memetic media, Milner writes, offer participation by reappropriation, balancing the familiar and the foreign as new iterations intertwine with established ideas. New commentary is crafted by the mediated circulation and transformation of old ideas. Through memetic media, small strands weave together big conversations.

    Milner considers the formal and social dimensions of memetic media, and outlines five basic logics that structure them: multimodality, reappropriation, resonance, collectivism, and spread. He examines how memetic media both empower and exclude during public conversations, exploring the potential for public voice despite everyday antagonisms. Milner argues that memetic media enable the participation of many voices even in the midst of persistent inequality. This new kind of participatory conversation, he contends, complicates the traditional culture industries. When age-old gatekeepers intertwine with new ways of sharing information, the relationship between collective participation and individual expression becomes ambivalent.

    For better or worse—and Milner offers examples of both—memetic media have changed the nature of public conversations.

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    • Paperback $30.00