Thursday, October 27, 2016

Blog 3

This week, we'll be looking at how the memes relating to Trump and Christianity demonstrate the connection between the offline and online spaces, and how this informs and is affected by the current political environment.

To do this analyzing, we will be determining which of the three categories Dr. Campbell has defined as ways in which the online and offline communities and contexts combine (Campbell, 2016):

  1. Bridging: The online and offline are distinct, separate, and connected by some link (forming the bridge between the two). 
  2. Blending: The online and offline are interconnected, and the flow between the two is fluid.
  3. Blurring: The offline and online spheres are so integrated that they create a type of third, in between space.

BLENDING: This first meme is an example of Blending, because it takes a real life situation, and adds commentary to it in a digital realm. In this meme, Donald Trump's comments about being able to murder someone in the streets and not losing voters is taken from the offline context in which it was said and juxtaposed above a picture of "Buddy Jesus" making a sarcastic comment in response to Trump's own comment. This digital commentary is not creating some third place, but rather taking the situation from the offline context in which it originates and moving it through that seamless boundary to the online where the beliefs about the comment can be demonstrated. Thus, the offline realm bleeds into the online realm where the commentary takes place.

BLURRING: This second meme, while sharing some Blending properties of the previous meme, takes it one step further into the Blurring concept of offline and online community (also, it is interesting to note that this photo is a literal blurring of the two parts of the previous meme). This blurring takes place because it edits Trump's face onto "Buddy Jesus" in order to portray the ultimate idea of the meme. While the quote for the meme is a quote from Offline Trump, it uses the internet to create a blurred, third place to discuss the idea of the creator that Trump could be argued to view himself as a savior and Jesus-figure. His quote has come off to many Christians as prideful and arrogant, and a quick save that is not his true beliefs but rather pandering to the Christian audience he has been talking to during his campaign. By editing his face on the already well-known meme of "Buddy Jesus", it creates a third realm because it is not just the online discourse of what Trump has said, but creating something that is impossible to exist in the offline (Trump's face on Buddy Jesus's body) while allowing for commentary on the offline event.

BLENDING: This third meme is again using the Blending method of combining the online and offline cultural contexts in order to demonstrate the point of the creator. It takes two separate offline instances, which due to time differences between Trump's Playboy magazine cover and his recent talk at a Christian University cannot be juxtaposed as they are in the meme, and uses the online context to set them side by side in order to show the hypocrisy that the creator of the meme seems to think is present. The comment from the creator of the meme demonstrates this all the more, because in stating that Trump is "a new kind of Christian," it ironically points out the discrepancy between a traditional understanding of a "Christian lifestyle" and the character of the man who is being championed by the "Religious Right." This is made possible in the online space through use of a visual means that is only possible in the online context, and does so using the images from the offline contexts in the online sphere.

BLENDING: In a similar manner as the third meme, this fourth meme uses the Blending method, taking the offline image of Trump, and places it in an online context in order to generate the conversation about the offline. In doing so, the offline material is transferred though the seamless boundary to the online in order to generate the commentary that then is meant to drift back into an offline understanding. The author's point of the meme is to show that, similar to the previous memes, the character of Trump and his current business investments are contradictory to the character that the American Evangelicals have a history of promoting. This discussion of the conflicting personalities (the ideals presented by Christian tradition and the reality of Trump's personality) is meant to generate the conversation and result in a change of the offline stance and actions of voters planning to support Trump, because as shown they seem to be in contrast and incompatible with each other.

Having looked at all of these memes and analyzed to what extent they combine the online and the offline contexts and narratives, it appears that, at this point (though it is early in the study) that most memes dealing with Trump and Christianity use a form of Blending in order to convey their message. This process is used because it takes the offline content, moves it online in order to generate the conversation the people wish to create, and that conversation is meant to transfer back to the offline and the reality of how people's religious views and beliefs affect their religion in everyday life (aka lived religion).

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