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Warburg’s cultural psychology as a tool for understanding Internet memes

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From a historical point of view, the idea of moving forces behind imagery opens up a new perspective on the spreadability and effectiveness of digital imagery today, especially in the form of Internet memes. Aby M. Warburg’s theory of Art History as collective memory is not only connected to the early theories of Evolutionary Biology by Richard Semon, but can also be interpreted as a parallel line of thought to Carl Jung’s psychological concept of archetype. The question of how cultural content was shared and received was deeply connected with Warburg’s theory of the ‘Pathosformel’ (pathos formula) or ‘Wanderstraße der Bilder’ (The Image in Motion).
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Keywords: Aby M. Warburg; C. G. Jung; Richard Semon; collective memory; evolutionary biology; internet meme; spreadability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent scholar

Publication date: October 1, 2017

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  • Philosophy of Photography is a new peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of photography. It is not committed to any one notion of photography nor, indeed, to any particular philosophical approach. The purpose of the journal is to provide a forum for debate on theoretical issues arising from the historical, political, cultural, scientific and critical matrix of ideas, practices and techniques that may be said to constitute photography as a multifaceted form. In a contemporary context remarkable for its diversity and rate of change, the conjunction of the terms 'philosophy' and 'photography' in the journal's title is intended to act as a provocation to serious reflection on the ways in which existing and emergent photographic discourses might engage with and inform each other.
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