Bioconservative cases for memetic literacy as metamemes

Over the past two decades, two bioconservative, metamemetic positions supporting memetic literacy have emerged, one moderate and the other radical:

  1. memes are dangerous and have physiological effects on the users;
  2. memes are a form of artificial life and must be considered accordingly.

The first tends to be outside-looking-in with regard to meme culture; the second tends to be an implicitly held, aesthetic, position amongst subcultural participants. Both positions accordingly suggest the raising of memetic literacy in response to the risks posed by memes. The former has a tendency towards promotional calls to action, whilst the latter reflects ecological conservationist sentiments toward subcultures.

The first is a strain of technological scepticism about the effects of new media generally, and often has "viralist" undertones. This position is embedded in the notion of "brain worms", which recapitulates the logic of the "mind virus" scare from the 90s (a popularisation of the Dawkinsian memetics of the 70s and 80s), as well as in related notions like "irony poisoning" (and the increasing popularity of psychologising politics within online discourse).

The second is an element of subcultural aesthetics within meme culture and its "ethics of shitposting". The moral and aesthetic offence which memeculturalists take at the commercialisation and cooptation of memes reflects an ethical belief about respect due to the cultural productions of memecultures. It's common for subcultures to develop this kind of mores. Within meme culture specifically, the cultural productions are regarded with two additional dimensions:

  1. authorial distance (the memes are sometimes "released" into the "wild" of the Internet, separated from the original creator);
  2. textual autonomy (a meme can "evolve" or be "killed", even "revived" thereafter).

These two additional dimensions (there are certainly several more) prevalent across many memecultures (within contemporary meme culture) aren't unique to memecultures. But they're endemic to meme culture because they're a natural and intuitive way for the subcultural participants to define memes.

Most people do not hold this second position seriously, let alone explicitly (it sounds absurd to believe that memes are literally alive), but it's popular as an aesthetic or metaphorical position.

Contrast this against the fact that the first position (the "memetic hazard" position) which is frequently held seriously and explicitly, but has only recently begun gaining popularity amongst memeculturalists (some of whom delight at the aesthetic of "meme magic", forming new subcultures around the activity of memetic engineering). This seems to suggest that the two positions are aspects of a more elaborate metaphysics of memes, one which inherits the meme's eye view. The two positions feed into one another, and the memes and the analyses form a symbiosis. The memes provide evidence to be used by the analyses, and the analyses lend an aesthetic of scientific credence to the the mythos around the memes. One result is the development of memes which increasingly fit the analysis, and the popularisation of analytic frameworks which more efficiently facilitate the production of such memes.

In light of the above, it may be valuable to develop a new framework which can treat both such Internet memes (namely, memes about memes being alive or autonomous) and the analyses surrounding them (namely, "takes" and theories that memes are infectious and dangerous) as memes per se (and specifically as "metamemes"), perhaps as part of the movement to revive memetics, as @UniPuff (2021) suggests:

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