Say What You Meme: Exploring Memetic Comprehension Among Students and Potential Value of Memes for CS Education Contexts

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Computer Science; Institute of Computing and Cybersystems; College of Computing


"Internet memes"("memes") are a form of media communicating a thought or idea through some shared understanding. Memetic images are incredibly popular on social media platforms among a wide audience of users of varying identities. Their proliferance, popularity, and ability to be either easily understood or learned through examples makes them a viable format for idea transfer. These images often hide complex, abstract reasoning mechanisms behind their humorous front. This study examined the meaning-making of university learners viewing memetic images to explore if these meaning-making processes might be applicable and valuable to computer science educational contexts. Undergraduate students were recruited to view and discuss meme image blank templates, as well as templates filled with non-programming and programming content. In addition, some derivations of the template formats were also explored. Participants (not all of whom had prior knowledge of templates and/or content) shared their understanding and interpretations through a guided interview, with transcribed interaction entries later qualitatively coded and analyzed. Through analysis of these interviews, we identified several themes of interest to the communication of computing concepts. Participant responses showed recognition and reasoning using a shared language through templates, which was able to be observed even when content knowledge was lacking. This ability to leverage shared language formats even when shared knowledge is missing or developing can have positive implications within an educational context. Our observations suggest that memes as a communication medium may provide a valuable shared language for many students to navigate programming pedagogical content within the classroom.

Publication Title

ICER 2023 - Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research V.1