Lecture „Memes in Transformation of the Ukrainian Media Landscape in the Context of War“
© Privat

On 15 January 2024, Prof. Dr. Mariya Rohozha, Professor of Philosophy at Taras Shevchenko University in Kiev, was a guest of the Centre for Advanced Study. Her lecture “Memes in Transformation of the Ukrainian Media Landscape in the Context of War” took place as part of the sub-project “How to Deal with Cultural Goods in War and Post-war Times: An Ethical Analysis. Also a Contribution to the Foundation of an Ethics of Access to Cultural Goods in an International Perspective”.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February, 24, 2022 changed the Ukrainian media landscape. The state sponsored telethon was launched. But gradually its audience started to migrate to (new) media channels (e.g., Telegram and Viber) with text domination of content accompanied the increasing the role of memes in media landscape.

The traditional role of memes is entertainment. But when safety as the basic good is violated, memes play mobilizing and therapeutic functions. They have become a weapon of the information battleground, which is just as crucial as the physical frontline when it comes to countering aggression.

What are characteristics of an image, statement, or video that allows it to become a meme? What is the role of cultural context in our comprehension of memes? Why does language matter? These questions and more will be analyzed by examining memes related to the Russian-Ukrainian war. We’ll explore the links between laughter and abusive language (M. Bakhtin) and the role of the latter in the first phase of the war. We’ll investigate the difference between laughter and mockery, and the point at which ridicule becomes excessive and how judge the idea of the “carnivalization of morals” (U. Eco) during the war.

Some war news become memes getting comedic flavor. But we often see memes on social media channels and only later read about the news. Memes therefore precede the news and, in some cases, provide a comedic take on the Russian-Ukrainian war. Understanding the news that become memes—and the news that does not—is important for better understanding public spaces.

Memes are an important part of digital participatory culture because of the peculiarities of their dissemination emotions and debating. Censorship, an inevitable component of official policy on TV, is transformed into self-censorship and a culture of vigilance in social media channels. One can view the transformation of individual personal responsibility as individual autonomy (M. Weber, K. Jaspers, H. Arendt) to a culture of vigilance. Culture of vigilance is understood as the individual attentiveness to socially sensitive questions. Where authorities cannot control public space through censorship information hygiene is launched through a culture of vigilance.