The Importance of Memetics in the Age of Meme’s…
Understanding memetics isn’t something that usually comes up in a UX interview. More meaningfully though, it doesn’t come up much at all outside of the think-tanks inhabiting the hallways of academic institutions. However, memetics, which is the study of ideas propagating throughout a culture or subculture like a virus, doesn’t just serve as the root-word of “meme;” it’s understanding the root of how we come to believe and follow trends, beliefs and information (or misinformation) in our society.
Why is this important in UX? Let’s refer back to the time-old query of the chicken and the egg. A UX designer builds experiences that can influence behavior. But does the trending behavior and mood of the internet inadvertently influence the designer? As a designer, it’s one’s obligation to keep up with trends and beliefs, and to develop strategy utilizing these components. A designer immerses themselves into the language and ideology of the audience they’re designing for. The audience their client pertains to. Therefore, if the designer is being influenced on any level of consciousness, they are in the cross-hairs of memetic influence, only deepening the spiral of memetic propagation, fueling the “virus” as it were.
Contrary to the above paragraph, this isn’t all doom and gloom. If you’re reading this and you happen to be media literate, you’ll know that all hope isn’t lost for those of us who lose themselves within the spiral. Let’s back up and engage this more level headed. UX designers aren’t immune to the viral nature of meme’s, ideologies and behaviors that influence our daily mindsets. When the internet is in a bad mood, user’s are in a bad mood, taking that mood from virtual and pushing it into reality.
A UX designer is tasked to make life easier, and to put meaning behind the screen for users. Develop meaningful content that, dare I say, inspires the user to make certain decisions while navigating through the frictionless world that the designer has crafted for them. Keeping in mind subjectivity and objectivity and knowing their difference must be at the forefront of the designer’s mind when approaching a project. Knowing the difference between these two key words and practicing the differences isn’t only within the best interest of the client, but of users at large.
Bargaining that meme’s are just fads that happen and fade away isn’t only a mistake, but a gross misunderstanding of any designer’s process. Acknowledging what trends, ideologies behind those trends and the language that we’re developing within the digital space doesn’t end with vocabulary. In fact, it never ends at all. We’re in the golden age of the digital vernaculars that are begging to be tamed by the influential designers and copywriters of the present.
Let’s end with a note:
Dear UX Designers: you’re the gatekeepers of this alternate reality, and the architects of humanity within! You’re an important part of a greater whole, and each and every one of you has the capability to steer users away from the abominable crawl spaces between morality and psychopathology. Though your gravity in this profession might feel like you’re an ant amongst elephants, together your overwhelming influence can carry any beast from the user’s burden.