From: Keith Henson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed 21 May 2003 - 13:07:11 GMT
At 09:48 AM 21/05/03 +0100, Douglas Brooker <email@example.com> wrote:
>there is a lack of superodinates in English with the result that words
>are used in double senses as both a superordinate and as a member of
>the group to which the superordinate refers. (cf F. Bowers, "
>Linguistic Aspects of Legislative Expression")
>one would like to know the range of opinions on this, expressed in a
>structured, methodical way, where 'meme' stands in relation to
>associated concepts like 'idea'.
I have written about this before. "Meme" is slightly more restrictive than
Memes are replicating information, ideas don't have to replicate. So
someone can have the idea. "Ah ha! The sky is blue because the atmosphere
scatters blue light better!" Her idea becomes a meme when she tells it to
another person or puts it in an article or textbook and others read
it. Virtually all ideas are potential memes.
"Meme" is more restrictive than memory. All memes-in-brain (accessed by
the mind) are memories, but memories are memes only if they can be
replicated from brain to brain, like the above reason for the sky being
blue. Memory of places you have visited don't count as memes because you
can't really pass on the information you have in your head about a place
like the Grand Canyon. The route to some location would count as a meme if
you were able to tell someone how to get there or a meme such as "the Grand
Canyon is a good place to visit."
"Rules" are almost always memes because to be useful for games or social
situations the information must be known by a lot of people. (Exception
being a rule you made for yourself and never let anyone know about.)
"Performance" (as others have pointed out) is one way to describe meme
transfer. Dawkins' original definition mentioned "imitation in a broad
sense" which requires a someone doing something and an
observer. "Teaching" is used on the source side of the transfer and
learner or learning on the receiver side. So 2.5 million years ago our
remote ancestors would watch their elders chipping rocks and learn how to
do it themselves. In turn they passed the "rock chipping meme" to their
children as part of their culture.
"Element of culture" is another way to describe a meme. Culture is the sum
total of memes (information) available to an intercommunicating
population. Part of this information gets transferred from generation to
Memes are in competition for a limited resource, human brains. This is the
main factor that makes memetics so interesting since memes can induce
behavior that affects how many are carrying them. "Convert or die, infidel!"
Most memes though, are of the rock chipping and shoe making
sort. Explaining them is not hard because of the benefits they provide,
ultimately to the genes of their hosts. The exceptional one like the
Shakers or the Heaven's Gate cult require a deeper understanding (from
evolutionary psychology) of how a meme can have such perverse effects on
>the relationship of dog to kinds of dogs - poodle, greyhound, etc is
>one direction of a hierarchy.
>dog itself is also part of a larger group - mammals (and others - such
>so where is 'meme' in all of this?
>where *should* it be? this will depend on the reason one uses the meme
>concept -what one wants it to do.
>this is basic work, but it could help to distinguish between concepts
>that are blurred and lead to more clarity in terms of a definition of
>the word 'meme' if only in our own thinking.
Hope the above helps.
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