What is the Meme Machine?

Meme Machine (2009)

Generated telematic narrative among connected nodes and the world wide web in a dynamically expanding network using open source algorithms under the open source licenses. Variable dimensions.


The Meme Machine generates a visual and spoken narrative among connected nodes within the world wide web. It is a dynamically expanding network using open source algorithms. An ongoing experiment to explore structures emerging from information technologies, crossing boundaries between technology, language, media and culture.

The medium is a set of generative algorithms. Many independent nodes on a local network discover and communicate using a server. Each client includes a web spider that relates a topic across the global database, collecting text and images to include in the local discourse. The server co-ordinates the topic between the clients and signals that, which has the most relevant response at any time, to speak. The sense that emerges from these juxtaposed fragments of many related sources is at times profound and moving, often ridiculous, and occasionally eerie in the emergent conscious qualities exhibited by the machines.


The world wide web is a global cultural repository, accumulating structures reflecting human experience. Interactions remain as artifacts of desires: self fulfillment, respect, love, shelter and physical needs (e.g. Maslow). I hypothesise that these artifacts are part of larger systems with unknown scope and implications. Some have even theorised that the evolution of a greater collective consciousness is possible. My intention is to create environments that provoke spectators into a dialogue with the theoretical ‘world mind,’ and cause them to consider their relationships with new technologies.

An Open Relationship

Linux users like the conference attendees will be free to download the software, install it and join the experiment over the large free wireless network spanning Wrest Point Casino, University of Tasmania Sandy Bay campus and other locations. Anyone who runs the software within that network will be automatically discovered and included. The clients and servers they run will begin conversing with other participants.

Releasing the software under an open source license creates opportunities for the work to expand in new ways. While this installation will be launched in the linux.conf.au 2009 Conference exhibition, its end point is less clear. People can freely download and distribute the generative algorithms, take them away and install them in an unlimited fashion. The project is registered at sourceforge.net and will also be available for download through the conference's servers. In this way the work takes on a life of its own beyond the artist's control, which is some form of awakening.

The scope for growth is much greater than simply the viral spread of the software. People are also free to modify the form or the work and distribute those modified versions (if they document how they vary from the original). In this way the work becomes a vehicle for infinite experimentation towards the understanding of potential of the 'world mind.'