Re: definition of meme

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Tue 20 May 2003 - 00:15:43 GMT

  • Next message: Wade T. Smith: "Re: transmission"

    On Monday, May 19, 2003, at 07:45 AM, Richard wrote:

    > I don't understand why anyone would say memories can't be memes.

    Firstly, thanks, Richard, for at least thinking performance might be in the running. Your wondering in an objecting way about the persistence of performance is, well, perhaps more intuitive than reasoned, however. Culture has a long established pattern of maintaining its venues for the single purpose of ensuring the similarity of performances within them. So, it isn't the persistence of the individual performance that is important for cultural evolution, but the persistence of the recognizability of performances- their relational connections with previous performances. The fact that the individual performance might be only moments, or nanoseconds, long, is not a relevant portion of the evolutionary effect, and, even calling the performance a 'replicator' is incorrect, as the performance is the result of a venue and a participant and an observer, the three necessary and sufficient conditions for cultural transmission.

    Memory is a function of the brain, and, as such, is a functional portion of two of the necessary elements of cultural evolution, the performer and the observer, but not of the cultural venue itself, which is also a player in the venue. What serves as 'memory' in the cultural venue is the whole mise-en-scene- the artifacts and presentations of culture, which are commanding aspects of the venue at all times performances are issues.

    (In the cultural venue of the baseball game, the very fact that there is still a diamond base path and four bases, and a pitcher's mound, and an outfield, and two dugouts, and foul lines, and bullpens, and spectator seats- all these things are the cultural memory of the game in concrete form, in the venue of performance, and, as such, this venue commands the performance of a baseball game. Such is the information supplied by the venue, and it is this sort of information that the memeinthemind model ignores.)

    Therefore, a meme is not a memory, as memory is only one of the factors in each player, and a maintenance pattern in the venue, not the whole vector.

    Saying that the unit of cultural replication needs to reside in the mind negates every and all influences from the venue itself, and, while I'm sure no-one thinks a billboard is actually performing, as far as the venue is concerned, it is nonetheless playing.

    The idea of the cultural venue is perhaps even more important than the idea of the performance as the meme, because we are all, by nature, players on a prepared stage. Analyzing that prepared stage is just as important as analyzing how the minds of the observers and the performers operate.

    The main claim of the memeinthemind adherents is that human cultural cognition requires the agency of the meme, as an agent of cognition.

    IMHO, there is enough known about the workings and cognitions of the mind to not need the addition of a memetic mechanism in it, either for creation, or perception, of the cultural venue and the performances happening within it.

    But, as Joe and others have stated, there may well be a need for a memetic agency in the brain- perhaps as cultural animals we have need of other mechanisms than just language and society and memory and ideation- and perhaps fMRI or other modalities will find them- but for me, what we know and can understand about the brain is sufficient to explain the development of culture, and the performance model takes what is mind at face value, so to speak, with no added necessities, especially imaginary ones with no certain mechanism.

    Why isn't memory and language and socialization and ideation enough for the memeintheminders? Why do they need to introduce yet another agent to the list of suspected cognitive processes?

    Truly, I don't know. This is what mystifies me.

    - Wade

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