RE: Mini case study of memetic mutation

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Thu 14 Nov 2002 - 15:39:46 GMT

  • Next message: Wade Smith: "Re: Aunger speaks"

    > <I do think that the virus metaphor is valid in at least two ways.
    > > epidemiological thinking does help us understand the spread of memes.
    > > Second, probably most of culture is caught rather than taught.>
    > >
    > Can't help myself... got to say in our consumer culture, "culture"
    >is mostly bought.
    > Actually, more seriously I think the virus metaphor doesn't
    >encapsulate the spread of memes for me. After all teaching is part of
    >cultural transmission as well, and that surely changes the environmental
    >conditions in which any virus-like memes operate so much so that the
    >metaphor may lose its strength.
    > Vincent
    I think the virus metaphor works well for charting the spread of new ideas as outlined in The Tipping Point, but not for ideas that have already been well established in the culture to which the meme belongs. Teaching is for perpetuating old memes while virus-like activity is the nature of new memes or old memes used for new purposes.

    Everyone has to be taught their culture and language, but a new mathematical concept spreads through certain circles like a virus until everyone becomes familiar with it. From that point on, it has to be taught by the people who use it to those who haven't picked it up yet.

    Even a teacher who is not a mathematician by trade can use the meme to teach. That's as much a use of the tool as solving a problem.


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