Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes

From: Jeremy Bradley (
Date: Sun Mar 10 2002 - 12:27:22 GMT

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    From: Jeremy Bradley <>
    Subject: Re: Cultural traits and vulnerability to memes
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    At 10:52 PM 8/03/02 -0500, you wrote:
    >Yes, sounds good Jeremy. I'm abouyt to hit the sack and will pick up on this
    >this weekend.
    Hi all
    A few years ago I started looking for the underlying reasons for
    inter-cultural misinterpretations. One of the 'tools' used in this inquiry
    was a list of values drawn up by an anthropologist, W H Edwards. These
    values were, in general, ordered differently in Indigenous Australian
    cultures than in mainstream Non-indigenous Australian (Western) culture.
    These included values concerning possessions, environment, land, time,
    innovation, change and other social markers. I then added some of Vladimir
    Propp's folk-tale elements which appeared significant to the formation of
    'traits' such as the inheritance of wealth and status, the importance of
    the individual, if there was a journey, if there was an interdiction and so
    on. This rough grab-bag of 18 features and value responses formed a
    questionnaire that a story could 'answer', either in the affirmative,
    negative or other, in response. The stories I questioned were foundational
    spiritual and moral stories, contemporary short-stories and current media
    stories. The answers made a pattern which could be read.
    The fascinating thing about the results of the study was that each of the
    stories questioned, regardless of their age or function, conformed to the
    'pattern' which was formed by using Edwards' list to answer the questions
    on behalf of the respective cultures.
    What I now suggest is that cultural values are encoded into formational
    stories which have been retained by the culture for the purpose of
    propagating those value/perceptions in successive generations. I originally
    called these whole patterns memes but now I think that they are much more.
    If we take just one feature, time for example, and look at the way it is
    viewed. To most of us it is linear, laid out from start (In the beginning
    God created the.. etc) to some perception of a finality (most of our
    stories follow a similar rhetorical pattern also). To other cultures time
    is cyclical, inverse and who knows what else. IMO just the notion of time
    in a culture is a megga-meme that gives rise to all of the memes that form
    or develop as a result of our underlying concept of time.
    To use a biological metaphor, each cultural artefact bears the imprint of
    that culture in the same way that each cell of a physical entity has a
    strand of code which identifies it as 'belonging' to the entity. The 'map'
    created by the presence or absence of features in formative narratives is
    therefore akin to the genome maps.

    So I guess that makes me firmly anti determinist 'cos I think that traits
    are programmed in to us for the purpose of making us vulnerable to
    culturally appropriate memes and defensive against culturally inappropriate
    I hope that this makes some sort of sense as I am a bit tired too.

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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