An Xiao Mina


Memes to Movements:
How the World's Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power

in conversation with ETHAN ZUCKERMAN

Please Note: This event has been canceled
We hope to reschedule


February 13, 2019
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes technologist and digital media scholar AN XIAO MINA for a discussion of her new book, Memes to Movements: How the World's Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power. She will be joined in conversation by ETHAN ZUCKERMAN, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT.


This event has been canceled. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we hope to reschedule.

About Memes to Movements

Memes are the street art of the social web. Using social media-driven movements as her guide, An Xiao Mina unpacks the mechanics of memes and how they operate to reinforce, amplify, and shape today's politics. She finds that the "silly" stuff of meme culture—the photo remixes, the selfies, the YouTube songs, and the pun-tastic hashtags—are fundamentally intertwined with how we find and affirm one another, direct attention to human rights and social justice issues, build narratives, and make culture. Mina finds parallels, for example, between a photo of Black Lives Matter protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, raising their hands in a gesture of resistance and one from eight thousand miles away, in Hong Kong, of Umbrella Movement activists raising yellow umbrellas as they fight for voting rights. She shows how a viral video of then presidential nominee Donald Trump laid the groundwork for pink pussyhats, a meme come to life as the widely recognized symbol for the international Women's March.

Crucially, Mina reveals how, in parts of the world where public dissent is downright dangerous, memes can belie contentious political opinions that would incur drastic consequences if expressed outright. Activists in China evade censorship by critiquing their government with grass mud horse pictures online. Meanwhile, governments and hate groups are also beginning to utilize memes to spread propaganda, xenophobia, and misinformation. Botnets and state-sponsored agents spread them to confuse and distract internet communities. On the long, winding road from innocuous cat photos, internet memes have become a central practice for political contention and civic engagement.

Memes to Movements unveils the transformative power of memes, for better and for worse. At a time when our movements are growing more complex and open-ended—when governments are learning to wield the internet as effectively as protestors—Mina brings a fresh and sharply innovative take to the media discourse.


Memes to Movements is essential reading. An Xiao Mina is one of the best people writing about memes today and unpacks with great urgency, understanding, empathy, and wisdom all the reasons why memes matter, how integral they are to the ways we communicate, and how they shape and change society. Memes are the essential unit of cultural exchange, and An’s work demonstrates why we should be taking them seriously.” —Jonny Sun, author and illustrator of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too

“Weaving together global cases of meme culture, activism, and misinformation, An Xiao Mina brilliantly reveals how internet culture, social movements, and political agendas are intimately entwined. Memes to Movements is essential for anyone invested in activism or geopolitics. By analyzing the evolution of digital social and political activity, this book offers a critical intervention at a moment when the public is anxious about technology and political life.” —danah boyd, author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

"Bridging scholarly research and street activism, this analysis shows how memes are so much more than an internet phenomenon . . . [An] incisive and illuminating study.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

An Xiao Mina
An Xiao Mina

An Xiao Mina

An Xiao Mina is an American technologist, researcher, and artist. She served as a contributing editor for the book Ai Weiwei: Spatial Matters, and her own work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the US and around the world. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Wired, the New Inquiry, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Al Jazeera English, and Hyperallergic. A 2016–17 research fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and product director at the technology company Meedan, her home is wherever the Wi-Fi is.

Photo Credit: Marcus F. Benigno

Ethan Zuckerman
Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman is the founder of the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and associate professor of public policy, information, and communication. From 2011–20, he led the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab. He is cofounder with Rebecca MacKinnon of the international blogging community Global Voices.

Photo Credit: Erik Hersman

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