Re: Why Europe is so Contrary

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Sat 23 Nov 2002 - 22:56:43 GMT

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    Jeremy Bradley wrote:
    > At 07:51 AM 23/11/02 -0800, Grant wrote:
    > >I can't take credit for "post modern" and the philosophy of deconstruction
    > >that it brings to mind. Someone else used it in a post that also carried
    > >one of my posts. I guess you forgot to count the number of ">>" before the
    > >sentence.
    > I thought that it was Joe, but you seemed to answer.
    > > I thought for a while that deconstruction had something to offer for the
    > analysis of memes, but now I'm not so sure. Looking at all the ways
    > >in which a meme is being used and all the antecedants it carries with it
    > >seemed promising for a while, but now I can't see where it will lead to any
    > >concrete results. Each person uses the meme he/she picked up in his own way
    > >and in conjunction with his/her own baggage of associated ideas. The usage
    > >is different for each person each time it is used. I can't see what's in
    > >anyone's head to make comparisons with the memes they are using. We can
    > >only compare the use of a meme with the memepool at large because it's out
    > >in the open. That's what deconstruction was about.
    > That is right and that is why the search for quantifiable data is
    > problematic, IMO in memetics.

    it's not a serious problem in linguistics, so why should in be in memetics? you just need a sound data collection methodology that is memetics specific. what seems to be a problem, based on my rather small knowledge of memetics, is creating a meme-specific theory that is amenable to 'field' work that facilitates the creating of hypotheses and testing them against observable data. talking about the 'religion' meme or the 'terrorist' meme in very general terms, often just a disguised political discourse, verges on the inane after awhile, unless it is the object of your study.

    what are ten characteristics of the 'religious' meme? with examples from a cross sections of religions at different periods of time to justify their inclusion in the list. someone mentioned that the 'religion' meme related to adhering to traditional values and customary ways of thinking and doing things. How is this different than the reverence that some give to written constitutions, a reverence that is almost religious? what category does reverence for a constitutional text fall into? what are ten characteristics of this category. Is there overlap between this category's characteristics and the characteristics of the 'religious' meme? Is there a superordinate category both belong to?

    >I also think that deconstruction of texts is
    > a hangover from modernity as all a postmodern critic can say is this works
    > for me.

    people 'deconstructed' texts before deconstruction and will continue to
    'deconstruct' texts using a different language to describe what they are doing. the special meaning deconstruction has acquired seems to relate more to the intentions of its practitioners, particularly the ones who have become 'notorious'. it can have a neutral non-pejorative meanings, just as the word liberal has a fairly accepted economic sense. it would seem important to resist semantic fads that give neutral concepts pejorative or charged meanings - unless of course one wants to study the human interaction that results in words like 'deconstruction' or
    'liberal' acquiring quasi-slang senses as terms of abuse.

    > Even if we take the most basic culture-meme - there must be some purpose to
    > my existence - each of us will build a different construct from it for our
    > own personal meme-bot

    most people would probably give you a blank stare if you said this to them. people may be engaged something without being aware of the significance some attach to it. this is where valuable data may be found because it is authentic in that it is not mediated by abstract concepts or questions like 'there must be some purpose to my life' even though an academic observer may see in a subject's behaviour evidence that on some level this is the question they are acting upon. I'd think the 'most basic culture-meme' would likely be something people on the street can relate to with some immediacy.

    > > Comparing all the past and present uses of words and ideas to arrive at
    > an expanded meaning or
    > >understanding for some text or other.
    > >I never read a deconstructed text that increased my enlightenment on a
    > subject.
    > >

    I spend alot of time reading competing legal arguments with respect to legal texts, their purpose, the intentions of the legislature, different strategies for interpretation, public policy considerations - at the time it was enacted and in present time. words in legal argument can be very fluid, some have specialised legal meanings, the same words have ordinary 'lay' meanings also, and lawyers are not always precise about making distinctions between how they are using words. in some cases, the ideal is to use those words which may be conducive to the widest range of different outcomes. a characteristic some will claim of great literature.

    > >Now I see more promise in transactional analysis which analyzes how memes
    > >are used and for what purpose. This gives me insight into what a
    > >transaction was all about and what it did for the people who were involved
    > >in it. To take a concrete example rather than a more abstract one, I'm
    > >refinancing my house this week. The loan assistant had to compile a list of
    > >information about me, my wife, and the house. They he had to fill out a
    > >bunch of papers for us to sign that satisfied a number of government
    > >regulations about notification of various legal aspects of the transaction.
    > >Each of these little transactions was built around a meme developed for the
    > >loan industry to make the lending of money safer for the people engaged in
    > >that business.
    > >
    > >Everything the loan officer said and all of my replies were meant to satisfy
    > >a ritual that would make him feel good about giving me the money I wanted
    > >and make me feel he was competent at his job and want to do business with
    > >him. I, on the other hand wanted him to feel that I was trustworthy and
    > >would pay the money back with interest and not default on the loan. To this
    > >end, I chose certain clothing to wear, had all the information he needed at
    > >hand, used a proper vocabulary that inspired trust in my intelligence and
    > >competence, and asked all the right questions to demonstrate my
    > >understanding of the process and the obligations I would take on by signing
    > >the papers he handed me. Behind all of this is a history of legal memes
    > >defining the process and the obligations of all parties involved.

    this is a rich source for field work. I'd just add that your references to 'feeling' different things might not reflect the 'feelings' on the other side, where fairly stringent criteria are likely established which loan officers have to comply with. A good loan officer will make it seem like he's your best friend, but he is applying fairly 'cold' criteria behind the scenes. similarly, a doctor patient conversation, or a lawyer who listens to a client tell their story - he will write down facts on his notepad that the teller of the story would find incomprehensible. The interaction of questioner and witness in court, particularly cross-examination, are closely studied by practitioners.

    a study in New York about 6 years ago concluded that 'lay' spectators who regularly attended certain courts just to pass the time had an eighty percent success rate guessing which way the judge was going to decide. (no serious problems quantifying data) these were not people who were legally trained, or even university educated, but they had taught themselves, probably unaware that they were doing so, to read something in the way the judges spoke or behaved from which they could
    'intuit' the outcome.

    Field work could be approached using methodologies of different disciplines. it would seem to me that a memetic analysis might be based on a unique memetic theory, rather than the theory of some other discipline, unless memetics is a part of a larger discipline, or many disciplines.


    > >
    > >This kind of analysis can be done with any communication between two people
    > >if the transaction is recorded. All communications are transactions
    > >involving the transfer of information or property from one person to
    > >another. I believe memes only have meaning within the context of the
    > >transaction.
    > >

    > >When Joe and Lawry were trading jibes, each chose particular words and ideas
    > >to achieve a specific set of goals. Some goals included attempts at
    > >dominance, the change of mind set in lurkers, attempts to humiliate the
    > >other party (part of dominance), attack and defense with word play, and a
    > >good time was had by all. It was the verbal equivalent of a game of chess.
    > >It was also a good example of how we use memes, transfer memes, and
    > >contribute to the meme pool in general.
    > >
    > >IMHO,

    some people might approach reading this list as field work. success in this endeavour will probably be closely related to an ability to resist getting sucked into the emotional substance of what is being observed. when the anthropologists starts taking sides among warring tribes in the jungle, they are liable to find themselves in the pot of boiling water. Do doctors or family lawyers burst into tears when a patient tells them a heart-rending story? Even if they do, do they not send the bill? An issue of professionalism here - engagement and detachment. still, another study might be an analysis of the pulls between personal engagement and professional detachment - this would be the kind of course seen in bar admissions courses, like 'interviewing the client.'

    > >
    > >Grant
    > >
    > What you are doing here is analysing the stories associated with the
    > transaction (even your cloths tell stories). As I've said before, narrative
    > is the only area where meems are quantifiable.
    > Jeremy
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