RE: Mean Um Meaning Mean

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri 07 Mar 2003 - 13:23:04 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1305"

            Hi Reed,

            Your cooments about culture intrigued me. Some responses.

            <I understand that the word "culture" might be useful in common speech. But I don't
    > believe that, as presently defined, it serves in the development of
    > memetics
    > as a theory.>
            But isn't memetics an evolutionary theory of cultural transmission?

            <But maybe "culture" means something in your mind that it doesn't mean to me
    > (which, by the way, would implicitly support my assertion that memes are
    > in
    > indiviual brains and not in an extrinsic context). Can you define it
    > somewhat precisely?>
            Culture is those sets of practices, behaviours, beliefs, and values_shared_by a temporally and geographically distinct community of people. As communication technologies have developed, so too has the scope of the temporal and geographical boundaries of a community, such that today many people talk (prematurely I feel) of a global culture fostered through mass communication and ICTs (including the one we're all using now).

            Aside from the definition of culture as that stuff put in petri dishes to help bacteria grow, I don't see another useful definition of it. I've come back to to this before on the list, but culture cannot reside purely in individual's brains, because by any useful definition, it refers to something shared, something communal, something societal.

            That human brains are required for the generation and maintenance of culture is fine, I've no problem with that, but to suggest it exists entirely within individual's heads doesn't make sense to me. Regardless of their relationship to memes, the existence of artefacts, particularly those that do not serve as tools (in the strictest sense of that term) such as symbolic art and ritual monuments, demonstrates that culture exists outside of the brain as well.


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