Re: definition of meme

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Tue 20 May 2003 - 18:42:28 GMT

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    On Tuesday, May 20, 2003, at 12:35 PM, Richard wrote:

    > I thought you claimed performances were memes. Memes are replicators.
    > If
    > performances aren't replicators, they aren't memes.

    I did claim memes are performances. Memes _are_ performances. Let me be clear, memes are _only_ performances. Are performances replicators? Hmm. I was approaching 'meme' as 'unit of cultural evolution', but, let me take on 'replicator'.

    - Replicator- noun- Any construct that acts to produce copies of itself. -

    Ah. Yes, performances are replicators.

    > I'm not sure how you can ever not have a venue

    With culture, you can't. However, social and/or developmental behavior is another matter. The 'venue' of social behavior is sociobiological conditioning, and this can and does differ from cultural behavior at all times, although culture _has_ to deal with these behaviors, as they are elements of any venue.

    > "Persistence of recognizability of performances" sure sounds like
    > mental
    > state to me.

    No, it is as static and solid and external to mentalism as Fenway Park is right now, sitting along Yawkey Way. But, yes, it is also memories made more apt to be remembered by reinforcement. 'Hmm, I think I saw a ballet once, and, yeah, this has all the things I remember, so, okay, this is a ballet." The knowledge, however flimsy, about what a ballet is or could be is simply that, a memory of a fact or a hearsay. The performance greeting this observer persisted in its recognizability as a ballet. This is how cultures survive, by maintaining the controls of recognizable persistence to performances.

    > How do you think ballparks get built without memes in the mind?

    Bricks, mostly, in the case of Fenway. Steel and concrete in most others. Dirt, grass-seed, or plastic ersatz-grass, construction crews, political chicanery, donations, sponsorship. No memeinanymind has ever built anything, to my knowledge.

    > A meme is not "the" unit of cultural replication. It is one element in
    > cultural evolution.

    Well, I'm happy to consider the meme the smallest part of cultural evolution possible, thus the quantum of cultural evolution. It is the one element cultural evolution cannot do without. Yeah, sure, the cultural venue itself is a horde of other elements, unfathomable, and all are necessary for cultural evolution.

    > Now it appears you are expanding the definition of "performance" to
    > include
    > the mere existence of artifacts. If that's so, you'll get much more
    > agreement because artifacts can be replicators.

    Artifacts are special cases of performance, in that they are tangible results from or of the performance. Are they replicators? Yeah, sure, but they are the agents, displaced in time, of the performance. They can also be displaced from this time, as the cultural venue itself is not immortal.

    > So now you're saying "cultural venues" are memes, not performances.
    > Defined
    > appropriately, I think "cultural venues" could be looked upon as
    > replicators, although I and others reserve the word "meme" for simpler
    > mental replicators.

    No, cultural venues are where performances happen- they are not memes themselves. But they are commandments about the parameters of the performance. It is not expected to ride a cow at a NASCAR race. It is not expected to see a soccer game at a baseball park, and there are strong controls against any other game except baseball being played there. I remember quite well the huge outcry of disgust against the first 'multi-use' stadiums, where baseball and football could both be played. It was seen as an outrage against the tradition and sanctity of baseball. Economics and utility won the hand, and there are several mixed use facilities around these days. Most all, if not all, football fields are also large enough to incorporate a soccer game. Here in Boston we have Boston Garden (although it's called something else now that escapes my old fogey mind at the moment) that accommodates hockey and basketball games.

    But, back to 'simple mental replicators'. What, pray tell, is simple about that concept?

    > There is no addition of anything, simply the labeling of a process
    > that is
    > already going on. Memes are not new entities, they are simply certain
    > learnings.

    I can understand anyone wanting to say that. Such simple explanations are, after all, where gods came from. Here's a brain, let us call this small miracle that makes it work that we haven't the faintest clue about a 'meme'. Certain learnings, indeed. Specifics, Richard. The history of the study of the mind is a map of uncertainties.

    > I have never heard a coherent explanation of how the performance model
    > can
    > explain or predict anything.

    I forwarded a wonderfully written article from the Times about how this is not only coherent, but at the level of technology. You yourself, and Lawry, with your 'memetic engineering' are explaining this every day.
    'Memetic engineering' is consultant jargon for altering the venue, letting them only see green when you want green to be the season's new color, as the father of public relations, Edward L. Bernays, whom I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with shortly before his death, did. Commanding the parameters of performance _is_ memetic engineering, because it commands the venue, which leads to directed performances, which lead, as they _are_ the replicators, after all, to continuing performances in recreated or continued venues.

    The baseball island scenario is not an example of a meme floating from mind to mind, but an example of a venue being reconstructed from artifactual commands.

    It can explain or predict things because it is the only model that actually measures and observes the things it is trying to analyze. The memeinthemind model is still wishing for something to observe.

    - Wade

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