Virality and Memeification: Affective Networks in the Dataverse (Penelope Papailias & Mitsos Bilalis)

GIF from PSY's 'Gangnam Style" (2012)

This seminar will examine the affective forces and critical events emergent in network culture and their relation to subjectivity, publics, popular culture, and conceptions of the ‘user’.

Our entry point into examining the data/power nexus embodied in contemporary modes of governmentality of network, database and platform is through ‘following’ the viral circulation and memeification of shocking and controversial images in social media, the attendant affective intensities and acts of performative embodiments and contagious replication. We will be particularly interested in the galvanizing role of the image and the place of the dead (or the semi-alive) in these assemblages. This seminar will critique phobic, pathological and classist reactions to the ‘viral’ and the ‘meme’ -- which often characterize not only public discourse but also humanities/ social science readings – as we seek to critically analyze these processes and understand their significant cultural, political and economic impact, as well as examine proposals for strategic acts of antipathy and disconnection.

This seminar will segue organically into the discussion of platform capitalism in seminar 2. 

Some of the topics to be covered include: the shift from archive to database, mesmerized subjectivity and somnabulatory capitalism, spectropolitics and image-events.


  • Sampson, T D (2012). Virality: contagion theory in the age of networks. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapters 2 & 5. 
  • Azuma H (2009) Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Chapter 2 "Database Animals"
  • Thacker, E Database/Body: Bioinformatics, Biopolitics, and Totally Connected Media Systems.
  • Pedwell C (2017) Mediated habits: images, networked affect and social change. Subjectivity 10(2): 147-169. 
  • Borch, C (2007) Crowds and economic life: Bringing an old figure back in. Economy and Society 36(4): 549-573, DOI: 10.1080/03085140701589448 
  • Galloway, R A, Thacker, (2009). On Narcolepsy. In J. Parikka & T D Sampson (eds.), The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, 251-263

Supplementary bibliography

  • Karppi T (2013) Noopolitics of memorializing dead facebook users. Culture Machine 14: 1-20.
  • Papailias, P (2018) (Un)seeing Dead Refugee Bodies: Mourning Memes, Spectropolitics and the Haunting of Europe. Media, Culture & Society
  • Papailias, P (2016) Witnessing in the Age of the Database: Viral Memorials, Affective Publics and the Assemblage of Mourning, Μemory Studies 9(4): 437 - 454.
  • Bilalis, M (2014) Viral Histories: Historical Culture in Greek Digital Networks. Ricerche Storiche 44, 121–134.