Just Between Meme and You: Online Memes as Health Communication Tools in Design and Media Arts Higher Education Curricula


This study posits that current online trends of mistrust in health policies may be partly overcome through an exploratory employment of memes. It aims at filling a critical gap whereby unexpected communication channels might succeed in addressing subjective bias seemingly immune to fact-based cognitive persuasion channels. We propose that the classroom may be a particularly apt context for this exploration: as part of the core lexica of younger generations, memes may act as pathways to stimulating actual research. Furthermore, by hypothesising that scientific knowledge and policies may incorporate aesthetics and semantics of online media, we aim at unpacking an often polarised debate around health communication – as particularly evident during the recent pandemic. These premises inform a set of assignments under implementation in various higher education Design and Media Arts courses in Portugal; exercises cover a range of approaches to pandemic-related health communication, trust and behaviour, employing visual languages and semantics of memes as a primary mechanism; we aim to create an ambivalence that dilutes expectations of formality and univocal authority, thus facilitating engagement. Assignments include: translation of scientific jargon, unexpected perspectives, before/after dynamics, humour and non-threatening irony, personal testimonies, and random image-text coupling. Visual outcomes and relevant testimonies from participants are currently under validation and will be presented. We further envision a scalability and visibility beyond both the classroom environment and the disciplines in question. The study is developed under the framework of the project “An Infodemic of Disorientation: communication design as mediator between scientific knowledge and cognitive bias.”

Author Information
Heitor Alvelos, University of Porto, Portugal
Susana Barreto, University of Porto, Portugal
Cláudia Raquel Lima, Universidade Lusófona, Portugal
Eliana Penedos-Santiago, University of Porto, Portugal
Jorge Brandão Pereira, Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave, Portugal
Pedro Alves da Veiga, Universidade Aberta, Portugal

Paper Information
Conference: PCE2023
Stream: Teaching Experiences

This paper is part of the PCE2023 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Alvelos H., Barreto S., Lima C., Penedos-Santiago E., Pereira J., & Veiga P. (2023) Just Between Meme and You: Online Memes as Health Communication Tools in Design and Media Arts Higher Education Curricula ISSN: 2758-0962 The Paris Conference on Education 2023: Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2758-0962.2023.57
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2758-0962.2023.57

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon