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Haha, kkkk, 555, LOL, jaja: Globalization Through Internet Jokes

Haha, kkkk, 555, LOL, jaja: Globalization Through Internet Jokes

New study looks into the role of internet jokes in globalization

globalization, internet jokes, memes, translation, symbols, culture, localization

Sometimes you wonder where all these jokes your father tells you come from. Setting aside the idea that he would purposefully go looking for some new jokes in the newest edition of ‘100 Best Jokes’, he probably heard them at the office or from a cheerful neighbour. Your catalog of jokes, however, is no longer solely based on oral tradition. Your jokes are probably based on pictures and movies spread on the internet. But how are these jokes different from the jokes your father tells, except from the medium?

In a recent article from Shifman, Levy and Thelwall, internet jokes are found to serve as a powerful agent of globalization and americanization. To research the role of internet jokes, they look at the concept of “user-generated globalization”, where internet users are the focal points through which user-generated content (in this case jokes) is translated, customized and distributed across the globe.

The translation of texts from language to another, in the eyes of the researchers, is where identity formation takes place. For example, not only the names in the jokes are modified – John becomes Jean, Jan or Juan – but also cultural symbols are replaced by something more familiar. To some extent, this study finds far-reaching replacement of national identity markers, but more often, the joke is merely translated and the cultural symbols are retained.

They distinguish between two types of joke translation. First, there is “off-the-shelf-localization”, the mere replacement of American markers such as names, currencies and brand names with something that fits into the local context. Second, there is also “custom-made-localization”, where unique culture-specific elements are introduced in the joke. However, both types preserve the original message of the joke. In both ways, globalization is visible in the spread of internet jokes.

Most probably, the jokes your father tells you and the jokes you tell your father are different in their origin story. Of course, your dad’s jokes will have a global aspect as well, but the rate at which jokes are send and distributed on the internet sees to a more globalized context of the jokes you now come across. Perhaps, just like our fast food, our jokes will also become more and more the same. Luckily, we still have our own ways of online laughing: hahaha, kkkkkk/rsrsrs (Brazil), LOL, jajaja (Spanish), 555 (Thai), xaxaxa (Greek).

Do you think internet helps jokes to be more globalized and do you think the jokes you see on the internet make you more acquainted with symbols and elements of other cultures? If you want to share your opinion, or a joke, leave your comment below.


Photo: Flickr,

Shifman, L., Levy, H., & Thelwall, M. (2014). Internet Jokes: The Secret Agents of Globalization? Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12082

globalization, internet jokes, memes, translation, symbols, culture, localization

This post was written by Nura Rutten:
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Nura Rutten

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