References and formats


In memetics, 2015-2016 are the years of linguistic and semiotic references par excellence. Many No/Yes formats, such as “Drakeposting” or “Sleeping Shaq” became popular in this period, leading to an infinite series of variants. Other binary choice formats, such as “Distracted Boyfriend”, “Left Exit 12 Off Ramp” or “How To Talk To Short People”, were mixed up in meta-referential formats that ironized on the use of binary choices, composing virtuose and fractal collages of No/Yes combinations.

Probably drawing on programmer humor, recursive memes also became very popular. Formats coming from the past, such as Unmotivational Memes, came back from the dead in their recursive version. Other ironic formats were reduced to fractals in order to affirm, post-ironically, the nihilism and loss of meaning that lies behind such meta-ironic games. Meta-memes thus opened a new and now already obsolete chapter of internet aesthetics, with a proliferation of perfectly looped GIFs using the so-called Droste Effect to simulate infinite recursion, and flat earth memes literally bringing to the table the common expression “Turtles all the way down”.

Obsession for recursion among developers and computer scientists dates back to Turing’s Halting problem and even earlier to Gödel's incompleteness theorems. Infinite loops had been an object of studies in cybernetics, and are curiously represented by Gordon Pask, at the request of von Foerster, in the doodle “The Man in a bowler hat” (you can try to spot the little guy in the panel).

Cybernetic scientists felt that the act of observing an object (or black box) by using another object (the observer's mind), which was also observed and studied by the same cybernetic scientists, risked to undermine any claim to objectivity. Something similar happened to “meme scientists” around this time. When the Memecultural community started to develop the meme lexicon, they also started to meme on the meme lexicon, and to produce memes about the meme lexicon, in an empty circle of No/Yes combinations. At the peak of this dynamic we find meta-memetic and recursive experimentation.

Discover more about this chapter: