From: Wade T. Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat 17 May 2003 - 23:55:06 GMT
On Friday, May 16, 2003, at 09:05 PM, Reed wrote:
Well, Reed wrote almost a hundred questions, and, haplessly, I do
realize not all of them boiled down to this one-
> Where are the memes between performances?
- but, enough of them do boil down so that I see this as the one I can
have time to answer. (Of course, I'm also very sorry that I seem to be
alone defending or trying to explain the sense behind the performance
model, but, there it is.)
Besides, he double-dog dared me....
So, where are the memes between performances?
I will be flip, and let you realize that, for the performance model,
this is a meaningless question. It would be a stupid one if you
understood the performance model, but, you apparently do not, so it is
only a question from ignorance, I'm again hoping, against the paranoic
reaction that you only want me to keep typing so that all of my other
life plans will gae aglae.
But, yes, the question is meaningless because, in the performance
model, the meme _is_ the performance. Period. It doesn't 'go away', and
it can't get 'between' things. Once the performance is over, the meme
is over. That was it. Finito.
The performance model does not accept any other existence to a meme
other than the moments of its activity. (And thus it does not accept
any supernatural existence in more than two places at once, which the
memeinthemind model demands.) In the special case of artifacts, we have
a result of a performance, of a meme, which may exist for many moments,
even ages, but, no, the meme is not a continuing agent in any way shape
or form for the performance model. What _does_ continue, and what
maintains the forces for continuance, is the cultural venue that allows
the performance to happen, and this is also a possible moment in
objective time, because cultures have died and are mortal in that
sense. A strong and continuing culture, with many controls and commands
upon its venues, expects performances of specific natures, and usually
gets them. (In a baseball stadium, two teams play baseball while a
large audience observes. In a school, teachers and students perform. In
a listserv, well, some of them, people write intelligible and cogent
explanations of theories. In a religious commune, prayers are said at
every matin.) Culture is the command of venue, to coin it in a phrase,
and performances are the activities that are controlled by the
parameters of these venues, and a continuing culture is one that
expects performances that are effectively understood to happen because
of the parameters set. When the flag is raised, the sergeant issues
commands, and expects a full salute. If he doesn't get it, punishment
is meted out. This is analogous to all cultures, stemming from the very
basic urges of reward and punishment inherent in social groups. Keith
works this behavioral agency into most of his arguments, although he is
still wandering around in the stillborn fog of memeinthemind-land.
> Let's say that you are playing a piece of music on the piano and I'm
> watching it on a TV. If someone pulls the plug on my TV, have you
> performing? What if no one else can watch or hear you but me, and now
Yes, in this example, I have stopped performing as far as an agent of
cultural evolution is concerned. (But, I was not totally unobserved, so
there might perhaps be a following performance from you.) The meme is
over, as a meme requires a performer, a venue, and an observer. (Your
TV is a special case of venue, since a technology is involved.) There
can be no further reduction in these requirements for a meme to occur.
In the case of an artifact, we have a performer within a venue, a
physical result, and an observer who needs to be within the same venue,
or the artifact will be culturally evolutionarily impotent. Again, I
have the very concrete and empirical example of the Tlingit elders,
who, upon seeing, handling, and discussing among themselves an artifact
taken from their tribe almost a hundred years ago, who, because they
have no written history and because there was no spoken history about
this single artifact (or several others, but one will do), realized
among themselves, and made it clear to all in that room, that the
culture, and thus the cultural venue, that created this very artifact
in their hands, perhaps a creation of a relative of one of them, was
meaningless to them all. A piece of their culture was extinct. The
chance of another performance was gone. This was a seminal moment for
me in my thinking about cultural evolution, and, I ask you, what does
the memeinthemind model say about such moments? Not much, as I can see.
And yet the performance model explains cogently and vividly,
unfortunately not without removing any of the sadness.
Chris is helping me out, thanks, Chris.... and you responded to him-
> Are you saying that every performance creates a selection
> environment that stimulates the evolution of a complementary
> That sounds plausible.
Yes, he is and I am. You have just described the memetic process. But
realize also that every culture is controlling, or attempting to
control, the parameters within which these performances occur,
stimulating not necessarily the evolution of a following or
complementary performance, but making conditions more probably
stimulating to a repetitive performance, because cultures desire
maintenance and stability.
Finally- from Philip-
>> In the performance model, there is no continuity of 'meme' necessary,
>> but, just like a spider makes a very similar web every time yet
>> different due to the parameters of the environment, culture commands
>> the venue, controlling the parameters of performance. Every meme is
>> unique, but may, just like the spider's web, have enough relational
>> attributes to be called a 'comedy', or a 'waltz', every time, and this
>> is a marker of memetic stability.
> No argument here, well put.
>> Continuity can absolutely be dependent and perceived as continuing
>> discontinuous entities. And culture is a great example of this
>> mechanism, as is evolution and, indeed, the human body.
> I'm sorry but I lost you here Wade, please clarify the point your
> are trying to make.
I was trying to say that the effect and the appearance of continuity
can come from the congregate of things that are discontinuous, or
discrete, as the human body is formed of discrete organs and systems,
even at cellular levels, of discrete chemical processes, all of which,
over the time allocated by the universe for evolution to work, have fit
together to create the species we are all happy or unhappy to call our
own. The continuity of culture is likewise, with the discrete systems
of religion and economics and politics combining to form a nation, or a
state, or a tribe. It is certainly one thing to view this city I live
in, Cambridge, from one house, and then from another, but within a view
from overall this country, Cambridge is very much an appearance of a
democratic and liberal entity. Cultures command the venues they expect
performances from, and yet even this control is a control of several
discontinous entities. That memetic stability happens is not
necessarily the result of one meme continuing, but the result of
several parameters being set within which only one appearance of meme
is compelled. The ballet is an example of one such venue, although all
venues can be considered, wherein the controlled parameters are legion
and amount to the gauging of minutiae. Laboratory science, of course,
is another extreme example, although similar performances are only
expected where rational results are attempted to be replicated, whereas
in the ballet, a similar result is not only expected, but any variance
from the classical choreography is held in disrepute.
Of course, when viewing anything microscopically as compared to
macroscopically, discretion becomes more a fact of verity than valor.
At any rate, my main point was that a common mistake made in popular
memetics is one of calling something like 'baseball' a meme, where
baseball is in fact a huge aggregation of thousands of cultural
processes, and to call it a single meme would be madness.
As a good friend of mine was oft to opine- "I love baseball. I enjoy
the confusion between innings."
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