Re: Distinguishing characteristics

From: Wade T.Smith (
Date: Thu 17 Oct 2002 - 05:03:12 GMT

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    On Wednesday, October 16, 2002, at 10:31 , Grant Callaghan wrote:

    > So how can we distinguish memes from other types of behavior and
    > experience?

    Well, from the behavior-only stance, memes (bemes) are individual performances within the constraining circumstances of intentioned observation, those constraining circumstances being some sort of shared communicative arena, i.e. a self-directed action before an audience that knows what the hell they're perceiving in some way, shape, or form.

    There are also behaviors that produce artifacts for prospective audiences (and such behaviors are memes), but the artifact itself is not a meme in this model, even an artifact, like a movie, that presents behaviors. (Although the performances by the actors during the shooting of the movie _were_ memes (bemes).... Such are the demands of aesthetics, and of the behavior-only model.)

    Any automatic behaviors, such as flinching from a fire, are not memes.
    (How far one wants to go with one's umbrella of automatic behaviors, well, I won't wander there- as I certainly have enjoyed the grass on the
    'all the way' side....)

    No experience is ever a meme in this model, although, one can equivocate and contend the _experience_ of the performance needs to be part of the memetic performance itself, but I more contend that is part of the constrained perception, as one is also an audience member to one's own actions, if the self is to be considered an entity, and I think it must in any memetic model.

    So-called 'trance' behaviors, or drug-induced behaviors, such as are culturally part of shamanic practice, are thus performances by a conditionally altered self, but all the constraints of the communicative arena are present. In fact, the shaman's performance is tightly constrained by the immediate cultural environment and its narrow communicative arena. This is why shamanism is not science. (Science is the human endeavor with the widest possible communicative arena, and the reason we can send gold plaques into the darkness. Shamanism is just the opposite.)

    But, I don't know the full catalog of behaviors, as I am not, oh no, a behavioralist. I just think looking for memes in any other way than as behaviors is futile.

    - Wade

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