Re: memetics-digest V1 #1299

From: Reed Konsler (
Date: Mon 03 Mar 2003 - 15:54:19 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "Re: Transmission and Replication"

    "This is what is lost- the ability to make a new cultural artifact using the same behavioral context, and this is what creates memes, and, both with the Tlingit artifacts, and with heiroglyphs, this is lost, indeed. And what is lost, bottom line, is the ability to make the meme, as its full context is gone. One cannot make a Studebaker in an Edsel factory, even assuming one finds an Edsel factory. Talk about potential....

    - - Wade"

    If I string together a bunch of brightly colored beads and hang them around my neck it might not mean anything specific to me other than "this is pretty" or "look at me". It might have some very specific message (for instance if I were to wear a pink triangle or a set of rainbow beads. If you found the pink triangle a million years from now, you could replicate the object. It would contain the same meaning that the original did in the original context, even if it meant nothing to you but "pink triangle". The context was lost, not the object or the meaning the object contained.

    Think of it as a virus. Itself, it does not contain the machinery to replicate. It may have evolved to infect a host that no longer exists. Tough for the virus. But, would you say that the genes in the virus have
    "disappeared"? You might open it up, look at the genetic information inside and not be able to make any sense of it because you don't know the context in which it was supposed to operate.

    Suppose I discovered the original host organism frozen in the Arctic ice or surrounding a deep sea vent. I infect the host and examine how the genes of the virus use the host to replicate. Now it all makes sense.

    An author creates a signifier to point towards a signified. The interpreter can't ever be sure that they have correctly identified the signified. If an interpreter doesn't assume there is a signified, then there isn't a signifier...but just an object.

    As I write this message to you, most of the context in my mind is lost. If you believe that you understand what I'm saying, you are being deceived. If a person that can read only Chinese thinks that this message cannot ever be understood they would also be deceived. This message is a signifier. If you imagine that it is not just a random collection of letters created by a glitch in your computer, then it cannot be an object. It must be a signifier and there must be a signified. How do you interpret it? How is that process different than how you would interpret a wood carving?

    Wouldn't it be better to say that some messages have meanings "to me" and some don't have meaning "to me" instead of making absolute statements? Doesn't it also make sense to say that different messages will have different meanings to you and me?

    Does the message change?



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