Time needed: 40 minutes
A meme is a funny picture or video with text that’s shared online, especially through social media. The term “meme” comes from the idea that an element of culture can be transmitted very easily, almost like the common cold. Memes can reach a huge audience within minutes. Within days, people can start remixing or referencing popular memes, which makes them even more influential.
Memes are created by combining images with text. They often use a recognizable image taken out of context to express an opinion and emotion. This can make memes a powerful way to spread ideas, which can have either positive or negative effects. Some memes are sarcastic and mean-spirited, while others can offer a humorous take on a difficult subject. They’re made by every kind of person, so the messages they carry reflect that variety. This means that memes can also be used as propaganda, spreading information to influence public opinion and manipulate people's beliefs.
People often create memes using apps that write code for creating graphics. Memes are also shared online using code. Programmers write algorithms, or sets of instructions, in computer languages that are understood by many different devices, like computers, smartphones, or tablets.
When programmers start working on a new idea, they often sketch out their ideas on paper before they move on to coding their algorithms on a computer. Pseudocode is a way to plan a computer program using human-friendly language. It’s not actual coding, but rather a written description of the key elements of an algorithm or program. It’s used as a quick way of thinking about a program without completely writing it out in code. It saves time and still lets a programmer check that their program will run.
For this activity, examine how memes can impact society and spread messages. Then, create your own meme “for good.”
First, explore what you know about memes:
Then, brainstorm some topics you care about and could use to create your own meme. Write down all your ideas on a sheet of paper. You might think of memes you know or love for inspiration, or ask yourself questions like:
After you have a few topics, brainstorm images to represent each. This can be anything, since people often use an image out of context or use more than one image when making a meme.
If you need some help brainstorming, here are a few ideas:
Next, choose one topic to create a meme about. Then, choose an image from the Memeable Images handout to use as part of your meme.
Optional: Search for and print other copyright-free images for your meme. Copyright is the exclusive right to publish and sell a literary or artistic work. Part of being a good digital leader is understanding copyright, so make sure you have permission and give credit for any images you use in your meme.
Once you’ve chosen an image, brainstorm three or four different statements you could place on it to amplify the message you want to share about your topic.
Write out each statement on a blank sheet of paper—seeing a phrase in writing can be helpful to see how long each phrase is and how the words could fit on the image.
Choose one statement for your meme and finish designing it:
Write your statement on your image. Then, write instructions to create the meme in pseudocode (instead of a programming language) on a sheet of paper. Your pseudocode instructions should include the two elements—graphics and text—that are part of every meme.
Here’s an example of meme instructions written in pseudocode:
Get the image of the dog with the tuxedo
Use a black marker
Write “THAT FEELING WHEN” at the top on one line, all in capital letters
Write “YOU GOT YOUR WHOLE SCHOOL TO START RECYCLING” under the dog, all in one line in all-capital letters
Check out the Pseudocode handout for tips and another example.
And that’s it! Now that you have a meme design in pseudocode, you could give it to someone else to follow and recreate the meme on paper. Or, you could rewrite it in a coded computer language, so a computer could create the meme digitally.
Troop Leaders: The instructions for all badge steps are available free of charge in your Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit.
Girl Scout Activity Zone activities have been adapted from existing Girl Scout programming.
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