Re: virus: Memohazard Symbol

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 12:12:59 -0800 (PST)

On Fri, 21 Mar 1997, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> I've been thinking about the use of the biohazard symbol in
> association with memetic hazards, and I have reached the
> conclusion that a new symbol would be appropriate for many
> reasons:
> - Purely from a PR point of view, a new symbol would likely
> be a catchy meme, and tend to spread to web pages like
> "Under Construction" icons. One could put this icon on a
> page without risking the negative connotations of the real
> biohazard symbol, and without devaluing that symbol itself
> for its legitimate uses. It could serve as a sort of
> "Danger: Opinions Ahead" sign.
> - It could also be used as an editorial-disclaimer warning
> for pages of links. "Beware: The ideas on the following
> pages are not mine, and I take no responsibility for them."
> - Biohazard symbols on t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats, and
> tattoos already have the association in the gay community
> of being HIV-positive.
> - There is a certain elegant symmetry to the threesome of
> symbols: Radiation representing environmental, non-living
> dangers; Biohazards representing competing life forms, and
> Memohazards representing competing ideas in other sentients.
> A new kind of evolution creates a new kind of hazard.
> I tried a couple of designs: circular of course, with the
> threefold rotational symmetry of the others, but distinct
> enough to be unmistakable for them. I'd like to see others'
> designs, though, especially those who are better artists that
> I am. The shape I chose for the leaves of the symbol were
> arcs resembling sattelite dishes or ears: memetic media.
> Another suggested converging sound waves, but didn't look as
> good as I had hoped.
> What else might the group suggest?

Lee makes some good points, and sent me thumbing through the _Dictionary
of Symbolism_ and various books on language history for relevant icons to
mutate. I didn't come up with anything, unfortunately; the closest I came
was a Norse rune called os, as, ask, or ast, and standing for (in its
iconic rather than alphabetic function) "mouth, arising, ash, ashes, the
power of speech, spiritual power working through speech, bursting
fetters". The symbolism seemed right on to me, but when I tried rotating
three copies of it around a center, I got a sort of forked triskelion that
looked much too similar to a swastika. So I'm still thinking. Here are
some associations I came up with in an attempt to find an image or visual
feature that had something to do with

light sources (light bulb, candle, sun)
book, scroll, tablet, writing implements
computer, modem, representations of signals traveling by wire
letters, hieroglyphs, cuneiform, runes, ogham, hand signs, binary
Athena (goddess of wisdom), Mnemosyne (goddess of memory), Thoth (god who
invented writing and thus ruined our memories)
attributes of gods: owl, ibis
mouths, eyes, heads, brains

I just attempted something using a sort of sigil I came up with in grade
school that contains all the letters of the Roman alphabet overlapped, and
it was looking nicely crystalline or viruslike tripled about a point in a
circle, but when I added the curves it didn't look so good. I'll keep