Memetic Rhetorics

Toward a Toolkit for Ethical Meming
Erika M. Sparby
Approaches memes from a rhetorical ethical perspective to examine what makes a successful meme and how memes operate in digital groups
This title is open access and free to read on the web A free online version is forthcoming. This open access version made available by Sweetland Digital Rhetoric Collaborative.


Memes are omnipresent online and have become an increasingly important facet of not only the field of digital rhetorics, but of pop culture in general. What appear to be little more than funny images with a punchline, however, are actually powerful vehicles for culture and ideology. In Memetic Rhetorics, Erika M. Sparby untangles some of the complexities of memes by determining how memes function rhetorically in our society, examining rhetorical ethical considerations, highlighting how memes fuel cultural ideology, and finding ways to reveal and reject uncritical memetic behaviors. Through this careful look at the rhetoric and ethics of memes, Memetic Rhetorics demonstrates that memes manipulate and reflect culture and ideology and thus shape our identities and our world.
Erika M. Sparby is Associate Professor of Digital Rhetorics and Technical Communication at Illinois State University.

Praise / Awards

  • “Sparby does an excellent job providing a toolkit for understanding and creating memes. They provide deep analysis to offer insights into how to modify this heuristic further to create a sound and ethical approach. Sparby’s work offers digital literacy scholars a new set of practices and ideas for future analysis.”
    —Ryan P. Shepherd, Ohio University

Product Details

  • 88 illustrations, 1 video.
Available worldwide

  • Open Access
  • 2023
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-90309-2



  • meme, memetics, countermeme, memetic toolkit, meme creation, memetic rhetorics, rhetoric, digital rhetorics, ethics, rhetorical ethics, circulation, remix, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, meme pedagogy, teaching memes, digital privacy, meme privacy, digital aggression, meme aggression, queer memes, gender memes, racist memes, sexist memes