We are an organization of users dedicated to Internet memes and all that relates to them. The Philosopher’s Meme is our experiment in distributed research into Internet culture — at once a series of projects, a network of users, and a community of contributors.
In June of 2015, on the tail end of the third and final wave of ‘historical alliteration’ memepages on Facebook, we created a memepage to explore the philosophical and artistic aspects of ironic memes, with the aim of critically engaging the community through its own developing medium. At the time, the ironic meme community was struggling with the conservation of its subcultural identity in the face of its growing popularity with the mainstream. As the dominant form of resistance at the time was the destruction of meaning via deliberate obscurantism, we attempted to develop its natural counterpart of meaningful memes.
The memepage has grown to well over 230,000 likes, and a number of projects have sprung forth from it, but our understanding of the importance of the Web remains unchanged.
We believe in a new politics of digital life: a pragmatic, education-oriented democracy on the Web, for the Web. The ecosystem of online cultures and Internet memes has been treated as anodyne for too long: Internet memes are not a mere stylistic movement (as characterized by the mainstream lack of imagination), but an important new step in the progression of art towards a participatory and democratic form possible only through this specific medium. In the swill of low art and heterodox media, there is serious work to be done.
We inherit and expand upon the memetic logic of past revolutionary art movements — a continuation of Situationism and punk rock, not the dead rivalry of formalism and conceptualism. We believe that democratic practice is possible on the Internet when users have a participatory connection with the hivemind, jacked into social platforms which augment their capacities as creative beings. We want to replace the tyranny of political and memetic essentialism with the contextual and performative construction of meanings and identities. We still believe in virtual identity — it didn’t die in the ’90s along with Web 1.0.
We believe in the need for a bioethics of art. Not only is art an extension of the self, it behaves in precisely the same manner as biological life. The life of an organism does not pertain to the molecular arrangement of its organs but the process of growth and living itself. Likewise, the life of art is not in their static taxidermies displayed in museums, but the concomitant processes of creation, remix, and distribution. We believe that a network of users, connected through memetic (inter-)play, is an ecosystem in its own right. We have a duty to protect its memetic biodiversity.
We perceive a dire need for user sovereignty in the increasingly rapid corporatization of the Web and its ecosystems. As social media platforms work to normalize and commercialize content, memetic life-processes are constrained by the architectures of these digital megacities. With rigid boundaries of permissible behaviour and production, self-determination within each platform is dissolved in favour of advertiser-friendly drivel. The organic process of confederation and niche differentiation have been rejected in the name of the vectoral extraction of profits; users are assigned to passive and normie-friendly consumption depots — advertising demographics — and become as zoo animals themselves. It is for this reason that we see as paramount the development of an information-commons, a digital space which can serve as both agora and archive.
Art, ethics, and politics are today impossible without the concurrent engagement of theory and practice. The boundary between the two is arbitrary: we need artists and memeticists as much as developers and technicians. The hivemind — interdisciplinary, porous, living — connects and unites us; together, we create.