The study of the folklore of any given group provides unique insights into the preoccupations, concerns, and values at play among the people involved that more formal avenues of exploration might miss. The internet folklore which circulates among The Ohio State University (OSU) student population is no exception, hence the creation of the OSU Student Digital Folklore Collection (SDFC).
The aim of the SDFC is to gather, document, and preserve iterations of digital folklore as it shared among OSU students. This includes memes, TikTok videos, Instagram threads, etc. as well as future forms as yet unknown. The Collection is focused on folklore which points to aspects of the experience of being an OSU student; for example, concerns regarding safety, housing issues, relationships with peers and instructors, campus life, etc.
Below is a selection of the submissions undergraduate students made to the SDFC pilot project during the 2022 spring semester.
For information about submitting materials to the SDFC, please contact the CFS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For instructors: the SDFC and submissions thereto can be a fruitful class assignment. Again, for information about including it in your course, please email email@example.com.
North Vs. South Campus Ye Meme
Submitted by Hannah Cvelbar
This meme depicts Ye - aka Kanye West - standing in front of a blank wall and holding a yellow notepad/legal pad. It is based on an image that West shared on his own Instagram account and which has been used multiple memes since (see, for example, below). Responding to the question "Describe your thoughts regarding what purpose the folklore item might be serving," Hannah writes: "This meme seems to highlight a long-standing practice within the OSU folk group, with students defending one side of campus versus another. This practice is something that builds community within the already large Ohio State community, helping students find a smaller group to identify with while living on campus for, most commonly, their first 2 years (since Ohio State currently requires students to live on campus for 2 years)."
Please Mask Up Between Sips and Bites Meme
Using the same image as the previous meme, this one refers to a sign that was placed in all OSU campus dining halls at the start of the 2022 spring semester. As the anonymous contributor notes, COVID was still around at that point (and had been for the previous two years or so), "but the students are tired of many of the rules since our vaccination rate is so high. This sign became an instant meme, and people were stealing them from the dining halls because they thought the message was so funny. They honestly were comical signs to us. If we can go to a lecture hall with hundreds of people on top of each other, we can eat without masking up 'between bites and sips.' This sign pushed the students too far, and it was something virtually everyone agreed no one was going to follow."
Raw Chicken Complaint Reddit Post
Submitted by Jay Ozello
This Reddit post was titled "Kennedy's Pasta Chicken was still raw, good thing I cut into it before eating." Of it, Ozello writes that "The item depicts an image of the cross section of a pasta chicken sandwich offered at the OSU dining hall Traditions at Kennedy. The center of the breaded chicken is raw, and the surrounding meat has a slight pink hue." Ozello goes on to note that members of r/OSU - which is the "subreddit" for the OSU community - are "quick to criticize OSU administration and do this often. The community will regularly have one topic be discussed for at least a week, usually coinciding with public happenings. For example, in a period where several crimes were being reported around the campus area, r/OSU returned to their discussion on what little they believe OSU has been doing to maintain campus safety - a discussion that resurfaces every few weeks. In the AU21 semester, and various times before then, a recurring topic was the management at Traditions halls and reported working conditions such as overworking, low pay, and poor management. Traditions dining halls are extremely popular places to eat on campus, so it is no surprise that the r/OSU community would have plenty of critical things to say about it."
Quarantine Mailing Lists Meme
This meme was shared among OSU students via the Reddit platform early in 2022, at which point the Coronavirus pandemic had been raging for around two years. According to the anonymous student who submitted it, the meme "serves as commiseration, drawing sympathy from many in the very public place of Reddit. Many people have experienced loneliness in the past years due to COVID-19, and many OSU students have been annoyed by the overpopulation of impersonal, broad audience emails sent to their inboxes; the meme is therefore relatable. Digging deeper, this meme could be interpreted as a connection between loneliness and technology. In many ways, computers fulfill once human jobs, but do their work without emotion. Even Email, something written by a human, can have the life drained from it if it is mass produced and sent to strangers. On a final level, this meme is unintentionally ironic; it seeks consolation and commiseration from strangers on the internet, while simultaneously deriding a form of internet communication, seeing it as impersonal."
Packback Top Gear Meme
Although this meme draws on images taken from a popular television show about cars called Top Gear, knowledge about that show is not necessary to understand what is being represented here. What is important are the references to Carmen and to Packback, two online pedagogical systems. The anonymous contributor goes into a detailed comparison of the two in their submission form. At the root of this meme is the fact that Carmen is free to OSU students while Packback must be paid for; yet even so some OSU instructors require their students to purchase it. The meme, the student therefore asserts, "serves as a critique of professors who require students to spend extra money, while also emphasizing how unnecessarily expensive college is for students with little to no income". In addition, they state, because "this meme is shared widely with the university community on Reddit, it allows students to feel a sense of community and bonding with other students who are also struggling with finances."