RE: Standard definition

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed 30 Oct 2002 - 15:37:42 GMT

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            <Placing the cultural unit of transmission solely in performance would
    > allow quantitative analysis. Putting it anywhere else only allows
    > conjecture.>
            Yes, a definite nail on the head comment.

            There for me lies the key to behaviours and/or artefacts as the units of cultural transmission- there are things out there we can study empirically. Studying the dissemination of ideas or beliefs is much more ephemeral as all you can do is look for external features- i.e. behaviours and artefacts that you suppose indicate the presence of particular ideas/beliefs.

            Besides when people have examined the spread of particular religious faiths, for example, what they're really doing is looking at patterns of discrete behaviours and artefacts that are assumed to represent a fixed set of ideas/beliefs. I think Aunger makes this point, that you can't truly have memes without their embodiment in practices and artefacts.

            That doesn't mean that it's entirely inappropriate or unreasonable to place memes elsewhere, just that it's more open to conjecture, and thus a lack of rigour and accuracy in terms of empirical analysis. And if (a big if I know) it works in the behaviour/artefact understanding, why problematise it?


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