Re: I know one when I see one

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Thu 24 Oct 2002 - 16:41:05 GMT

  • Next message: Bill Spight: "Re: I know one when I see one"

    Dear Grant,

    > Would you say the term "couch potato" is an example of a meme
    > that propagated itself?

    It is a meme, but it does not propagate itself.

    > Words are not memes themselves because they can mean anything depending on
    > the circumstances in which they are received. They carry information but are
    > not the information being carried.

    I agree, but the information they carry (metaphorically) is not the only information they possess. They also have structural information. If you define a meme as information, that information is sufficient. I will post more about "lex-memes" soon. :-)

    In any event, in the context of "I know one when I see one", you do not have do define memes to include words. It is enough to identify memes by words. I suspect that you are denying that, but I am not sure. Would you say that each word *sense* is sufficient to identify a meme?

    > So the same sentence, containing the same words, can be used by different
    > speakers to send out four different messages. The words, therefore, are not
    > the meme. They are artifacts which carry the meme.

    As I pointed out to Vincent, emphasis may have a memetic component. Surely it does in spoken English. And besides, as I also pointed out, just because something carries meaning does not mean that it is memetic. Much of animal communication is not memetic, though it is meaningful.

    > The reason the sentence and the
    > phrase can have the same exact word content but an infinite number of
    > meanings is because it can be used in an infinite number of situations. The
    > meaning of any word, phrase, or sentence is context sensitive.

    Indeed. However, memes are meaningful, but meanings are not memes.

    > So the sentence, "I know a meme when I see one." is a lie.

    I guess there is less unity than I supposed. ;-)

    > You can't see
    > one. You can only perceive the artifact that carries it. You only
    > recognize the artifact as a meme carrying sentence after a number of people
    > have started using it in their own communications. But the message or
    > information it carries can be completely different for each person each time
    > it is used. So where is the meme?

    Indeed. If memes are meanings, and meanings are contextual, you can have communication, perhaps, but it is not clear that you have cultural transfer simply by transferring meanings. One thing I assumed for memes for all definitions is that they are units of cultural transfer. So where is the meme?



    =============================================================== 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) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu 24 Oct 2002 - 16:44:35 GMT