The Transatlantic Relations have always been a topic for news and media. After the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and his support for Brexit and rather unconventional approaches in Foreign Policy a new debate about the state of transatlantic relations started. In essence the main problem in transatlantic relations is that Europeans wish to share leadership with the American, but are reluctant to take the costs this sharing would cause us, whereas the Americans are delighted to share the costs, but not the lead. Hence, a bolstering of the foundations of transatlantic relations requires fresh perspectives, which in turn require that the debate more accurately reflect the diversity of today’s society. The term “transatlantic relations” refers to a general notion that a special relationship exists between the United States and Europe. What unites us are common values based on democracy, freedom and respect for human rights as well as our common interests in the fields of economy, security and international relations. Nevertheless, there are many things that divide us including an increasing technological rivalry and the split between the Europeans ourselves. The questions that arise here are, how can we increase public support for a common transatlantic agenda? How can we involve the younger generation in particular and include their aspirations and which innovative communication hooks and tools should decision-makers use? The transition from traditional communication to online tools and social media in politics has given rise to new spaces, forms and languages for political communication. Visual aspects are gaining an important role in this process and political parties and figures have made it their goal to include them into their communication strategies. Those images and videos are carefully selected in order to impact and foster engagement on Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. One trending way of these visuals are the so called Memes. Memetics is called the study of meme theory and the word “meme” is Greek origin and means “that which is imitated” describing self- replicating units of culture. This included anything that could be learned, remembered and spread from one brain to another. This recent election proved that memes, some of which have been funded by politically motivated millionaires and foreign governments, can be potent tools to use in political communication. The USA even proposed a Meme Warfare Center and DARPA, the Pentagon agency that develops new military technology, commissioned a four-year study of memetics, what proves the relevance and increasing role of unconventional communication tools in politics. So why not use this approach in improving the perception and narrative of transatlantic relations? Hillary Clinton’s top tweet is a meme. Donald Trump’s taco bowl became one. Barack Obama has been labelled the memecrat par excellence due to his use of such content for institutional and political communication. His team takes outmost care in the launching of all kinds of messages, including graphic ones, to be converted into memes. Memes, these sharable units of culture have emerged as the lingua franca of the 2016 election, and have given the American people an entirely new way of articulating their beliefs. In the recent years such content became a form of expression and participation of online communities through Social Media platforms. In this sense a successful meme needs to be infectious – meaning appealing, satirical, humorous or universal. On the internet we can spot two kinds of memes a) Photoshop creations, that cause the public to act and b) Macro images, characterized by an oversized text on the image. This capacity of synthesising an idea or situation has resulted in their increased use in the political context. Memes can comprise a complex political fact in a brief, powerful and effective way that engages people. Social Movements such as the Arab Spring built their narrative through thousands of images shared on Social Media. Also all the memes used after terrorist attacks, such as the drawing to the slogan of “Je suis Charlie” etc. became symbols of global rejection to those kind of attacks and a support for freedom of expression. This allows political actors to use such content depending on the communicational needs of each moment and situation. There is an inseparable link between the political field and popular culture. The time investment, creativity and critical evaluation by sharing and creating memes, are also valuable in terms of citizenship. The value of pop- culture for politics lies not on rationality, but on the affect that it appeals, which is crucial to developing and maintaining strong political engagement. Due to their nature, memes are easy to create, consume and spread. As a result, they provide entry points to the complex realm of politics, making it more inclusive, more accessible, and more democratic. Which gives us a starting point on modernizing the communication on transatlantic relations. With the creation of such content we can make transatlantic relations more accessible to people, who didn’t seem to care or were afraid of the complexity of the topic. It is unconventional and new, but the increased use of memes by presidents and political parties makes it worth further analysing the professional use of such content. I strongly believe, that the AtlanticExpedition provides the right forum to exactly elaborate the possible success of such an approach and the creation of appropriate and suitable visuals in achieving the goals of this project.
Feodora has a degree from the University of Freiburg and Lancaster University. Her research focuses on religion, conflict and technology.