RE: memetics-digest V1 #1299

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed 05 Mar 2003 - 15:51:47 GMT

  • Next message: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1301"

            Hi Scott,

            <I was referring to limitations of using artificats to extrapolate about the
    > culture from which these artifacts came.>
            You're absolutely right about this, a very good example being cave paintings where we have found out all sorts of stuff about how they were made, and _hypothesised_about what they were_for_ but no-ones knows for certain. However, we can extrapolate to a reasonable degree certain probable associations. For example, people of that time were hunter gatherers, the vast majority of paintings are of animals, therefore there must be some relationship between those two things. Given the inaccessible places, and very difficult conditions in whihc the paintings were produced
    (these weren't caves people lived in) it's reasonable to assume that these paintings weren't just idle doodles, but important in some way, perhaps tied to rituals and beliefs asssociated with the hunter gatherer lifestyle.

            Amongst other things, the problem that the memes in minds model has, and I think what Wade has been driving at in his recent comments is its requirement for the totality of the meme to go from one mind to another, its form and meaning. I would argue that artefacts retain their form far more readily, and thus are easier to transmit between people. That's why chinese whispers doesn't work very well at retaining fidelity, but chinese checkers does.

            In the very real McLuhan sense, for memes the medium is the message. Which means that understanding, for example the 20th century will be significantly easier, in some senses, for historians of the far future, than it is for historians today to understand stone-age culture. The meme machines are the artefacts we leave behind us, not us.


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