Monday, December 12, 2005

An Article on Memes

Disinformation has posted a link to an article at New Dawn Magazine on the nature of memes. There isn't any new information, but it's a basic primer for those not fully familiar with the term.

The author presents a fair explanation of memetics, though he doesn't reference the concept of meta-memes, or Memes, as used in Spiral Dynamics. In fact, he seems to think that social movements and other widely spread memes have not previously been included in meme theory.

One other objection: he uses the discredited 100th monkey theory to explain meme movement. The original story of the "100th monkey" was a hoax. I wish people would quit using a false story to build their arguments.

Here is a little taste of the article:

The word ‘meme’ was first popularly used by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene. The word ‘meme’ has come to mean a cultural accretion of knowledge, a package of several ideas that can be passed onto others. It’s usually more complex than a single idea, and can represent a fashion/music/lifestyle or a belief. It is the mental equivalent of a gene whereby a package of many attributes is passed on.

The science or study of memes in action has come to be called memetics.

A meme has been regarded too narrowly I believe, and I am interested in broadening the definition of a meme. No matter how narrow a definition you give to a meme, sooner or later you have to consider more nebulous or abstract ideas as having acquired enough cultural accretion to have become memes. It’s easy to conceive of a visual fad such as the hula-hoop as having a chartable spread through society and calling it a meme, but surely socialism, futurism or a new political idea are also memes that spread through society.

Memes like these, just as in any fad or fashion, have a zenith before arcing into decline. There will always be a few adherents of any ‘ism’ who may be the actual carriers of the meme, but eventually they may find themselves beached upon a shore that has no tides.

Someone new to the idea of memes might say: why don’t we just call them ideas? The answer is that memes act as if they have a life of their own. Whether they do or not is not the relevant point, but they do replicate and have a dynamism absent from our common notion of a simple idea.

Read the rest here.

No comments: