The Victorian Meme Machine: Remixing the Nineteenth-Century Archive.

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    In summer 2014 Bob Nicholson began working with the British Library Labs on a new project that aims to find and revive Victorian jokes. It began with two key aims: to build a high-quality, open access, research database of one million Victorian jokes; and to share these jokes with modern audiences in creative new ways, including the use of images, videos, performances, and social media. This article explains the rationale behind the project and outlines the work done so far. Part one explains why Victorian jokes are worthy of academic attention and demonstrates how the most laboured of puns can reveal new insights into nineteenth-century culture and society. Part two explores the relationship between Victorian jokes and existing digital archives and considers the pros and cons of liberating them from the restrictions imposed by these collections. Finally, part three documents the progress made so far. In particular, it reflects on the development of the ‘Mechanical Comedian’ tool and attempts to release one hundred ‘remixed’ versions of Victorian jokes onto social media.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-34
    Journal19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
    Early online date10 Dec 2015
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Dec 2015


    • History
    • Digital Humanities
    • Victorian
    • Jokes
    • Archives
    • Newspapers

    Research Centres

    • Research Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies


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