Re: memetics-digest V1 #1300

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Tue 04 Mar 2003 - 13:15:15 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1300"


    > The first person that creates the internally coherent, accessible and
    > NECESSARY description of memetics will get to use whatever words he or
    > she wants, and everyone else will follow.

    What about the first person to establish the externally coherent, accessible, and necessary description?

    > The most important part of that is, NECESSARY.

    I agree.

    > I think memetics is interesting, but I haven't yet heard of an idea
    > within it that I couldn't use ideas from psychology, sociology, or
    > marketing to describe.

    I also agree, almost to the apex, but I don't think psychology, sociology, or marketing really look at the environment in the way an external memetic analysis could- as the wind-blown and growing branches upon which we spin our webs, or the atmosphere-absorbing fields in which we raise our voices, or even the nitrogen oxide infused roadways upon which we drive our vehicles.

    > we would need to figure out how to make memetics a powerful virus

    Get it out of the brain.

    > Perhaps it would be better to say "currently inaccessible" than "gone".

    Once the cultural context is gone, it's gone. But, yes, perhaps there is another word to use, and that word is 'extinct'. Hieroglyphs, as symbols, managed to retain _some_, non-intrinsically cultural, information in the world, but, many other languages did not. But, and it's a big, big, but, the culture that created those hieroglyphs is extinct, and there will no more hieroglyphs, although there will be other pictogram-based means of communication and record-keeping, and even replicated hieroglyphs in pendants and trinkets.

    I do tend to see 'extinct' and 'gone' as very similar to the point of full agreement. I suppose some DNA scientist might quibble, but we'll see if any mammoths are walking around in a few years....

    > Doesn't it also make sense to say that different messages will have
    > different meanings to you and me?

    Yes, it does, and I never said it didn't. But, this 'different meaning' situation is a real problem, as I see it, with the memeinthemind model, because it presupposes that the same meaning, the same semantic content, is present (and somehow transmitted between) two or more individual brains. As Joe says- "Meme-ories are the subclass of memories that are communicated between minds (although for the recipient, they are not memories so much as learned knowledge)." He's already calling them two different things in the same sentence. Whereas there would seem to me to be no reason whatsoever to claim the same meaning is held by anyone, about anything. Perhaps the memeinthemind model is, as Joe also says, more a matter of gestalt, where we have collections of things, and we need only memories, and some of us have similar collections, and thus perform similar behaviors. I just don't see any need, as you've said, to introduce anything uniquely 'memetic' into this process, (because then we have to introduce shared meanings, and, while possible, this is not necessary), as we have descriptions of this process from other analyses and they are adequate to the task, as Scott and others have pointed out. Where I think there is a lack of analysis and a need for investigation is the interaction of this human animal using these usual behavioral actions with the environment he creates and moves in- the performance space that is the survival environment. Problem is, humans alter their survival environment in many more ways then most other creatures do. And that is what I would call memetics- the alteration of the performance space. We can see humans as agents within this space without needing any individually unique item of skill within their bodies- they are just acting like humans. It is the environment they are acting within that is the memetic transferal agent- what we are is what we perform, and performance is linked to the time/space it occurs within.


    > There are anthropologists today who study the art of working stone to
    > produce the same artifacts they find in the earth in order to
    > understand the culture that produced them. I guess you would say they
    > are wasting their time and aren't likely to learn anything about that
    > culture.

    I would not say that, at all. In fact, this is one of the things for which I would become an anthropologist in the first place. How I admired those who could make the tools in the same place with the same materials! Yes, this is one way to _understand_ a culture, down to understanding the processes of their life, the time they spent and the place they were, and, while this sort of understanding is exemplary and satisfying, it does not place one inside and a part of the culture itself. For that, one has to start life within it. The time/space of this anthropological performance (for that is all that it is) is missing the correct 'time' parameter, and, it always will, in any study of any culture.

    Artifacts are memes with an extended time/space, and how one defines their interaction with their time is a point of contention. I would claim they can become dislocated from their originating time/space to the degree that they become useless for their original intent, and I've seen clear evidence of this. The changing of culture is a given. There are no trilobites anymore, and there are no rune-readers, and that Tlingit artifact had no meaning to the tribe that created it. Perhaps I did not relate the sadness upon their faces, which was deep and soft, but, they had no idea. They may have retained as much of their culture as they could, but, they were also in the process of seeing pieces of it wander off and be lost.

    Memes are things that firstly are available to the senses.

    - Wade

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 04 Mar 2003 - 13:48:13 GMT