Re: electric meme bombs

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Thu 31 Oct 2002 - 04:30:35 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: I know one when I see one"

    > >I'm pretty much in agreement with you, but I propose that we call a meme
    > >information contained in a transaction, the pattern if you will of the
    > >information being transferred. Just as what we call a gene is the
    > >information contained in a segment of DNA, the pattern of information
    > >contained in an attempt to communicate an idea (a transaction) through
    > >(narrative), actions, or artifacts is something we can point to and call
    > >meme, although it has no physical manifestation other than the
    > >itself. But it is not the transaction we should refer to as the meme, it
    > >the pattern of information encoded in the transaction.
    >Hi Grant.
    >I thought that the major distinction was that a "meme" is self-serving and
    >uses humans as hosts. The "information contained" argument versus the
    >"resulting behaviour" argument is not the issue so much as the description
    >of what is happening in the process of infection and replication. I
    >suppose that I feel your "information contained in a transaction" is too
    >general and applicable to deliberate (ie non-mememetic) processes as well
    >as mememetic processes - the object is, I think, to make a distinction.
    >The cultural artifacts that result are the only evidence of the "meme" as
    >either process or object, and could be in many forms ranging from beliefs
    >to lierature. However, I admit to being a reductionist, as for me it makes
    >understanding this very slippery concept a bit easier.
    >Bruce Howlett

    Hi Bruce,

    I'm afraid this marks the line of divergence between us. I can't see memes creating themselves, so to speak, and engaging in a symbiotic relationship with us. I see them as tools we create and share with other memebers of our culture. The tools don't use us. We use them for our purposes and they are picked up by the people who can see a way to use them. I don't see memes having either will nor desire. The information contained is instructions for how to make the tool.

    When you put words or actions together you do so for a purpose. Mostly, to influence your fellow man or to make life more comfortable. The meme consists of the choices you make in crafting those words or actions. The result is an artifact of some sort -- either a speech that people remember, a book or play, a statue or monument, a painting, a computer, a car, a house, etc., etc.

    Someone here recently wanted to come up with a word that reflected a variation or division of what we were calling memes and came up with the word "beme." Why did he create a new word rather than use the one we were already tossing around? The reasons are many, but primarily he wanted to amuse and entertain us at the same time he was making a point about the subject of memes. He chose these elements of our language because they were available and he felt they would get the job done. They made a play on other memes already in use and could be easily absorbed and understood. So a new lexeme was introduced to the group and we had a good time tossing it back and forth. The meme pool gained a new tool and the memeplex increased by one unit.

    So what was it that was created and transmitted? It was a written artifact made of existing elements of our culture. The people it was transmitted to understood immediately how to reproduce it and use it, which they did. Creating words is a type of behavior, as is passing them around. Some members of the group tired of the word and refused to use it anymore. That is also a behavior. You can't make or use a tool without behavior being involved. But that behavior is part of the process of transmission -- it is not the thing transmitted. What was transmitted was a new combination of letters and sounds that carried an idea (what those symbolic letters and sounds referred to) from one mind to the rest. That was the meme, at least in my definition of the term.



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