RE: transmission (and reception)

Date: Thu 05 Jun 2003 - 18:36:46 GMT

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    From: Vincent Campbell <> To: "''"
    <> Subject: RE: transmission (and reception) Date sent: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 11:24:38 +0100 Send reply to:

    > Hi Everyone,
    > I've been playing a bit of catch up on the list, and I haven't had
    > time to look at all the posts on this (or any other theme- too many
    > seem to end up in a bit of name-calling which is disappointing)...
    > ANYWAY, this discussion about transmissions, and several others on
    > similar themes struck my eye for a number of reasons.
    > First, as people on the list will probably know I broadly agree with
    > Wade here (my agreement stemming back to Derek Gatherer's journal
    > paper a while back), although I favour a meme as artefact model,
    > rather than a performance model.
    > BUT what has struck me about much of these related discussions is the
    > over-emphasis on the transmitter of information rather than the
    > recipient. I have recently started reading Pinker's 'The Blank Slate'
    > (I assume most people will have heard of/read this, but for those who
    > haven't it's essentially a magisterial refutation of the idea of the
    > human as a tabula rasa or blank slate who is entirely shaped by
    > society). In one chapter on the role of culture he reminds us that
    > one of the distinctions of humans from other species is our theory of
    > mind- or essentially our capacity to theorise about the motives,
    > intent, feelings etc of other people. It is this that allows us to
    > infer meaning from actions, and separate intentional and relevant
    > actions to a particular task from incidental ones. He gives the
    > example of the difficulty of getting a robot to learn by imitation the
    > act of unscrewing a bottle cap by watching a human do it, who may, for
    > example, wipe their brow in the middle of the action, or scratch their
    > head etc.- how do you teach the robot to concentrate only on those
    > things that relate to the task? Yet very young children can do this
    > with ease, and even can complete a task that an adult attempts, and
    > fails at, because they can infer intent.
    > In other words the onus should not be solely on the transmitter, but
    > at least include discussion about the receiver of the meme.
    This is a salient point. Transmitters perform actions that are perceiveable; receivers perceive these actions. Clearly the actions are happening between, but, although what is being perceived is between, the perception itself is an internal and cognitive process, happening within.
    > I think, IMHO, that the memesinminds lobby are conflating our innate
    > abilities for a theory of mind (as well as other things like the
    > capacity for learning language) as the determinant of memetics.
    > Instead of recognising that as a level of understanding they see it as
    > the totality of understanding (which is why Brodie could ask the
    > specious question about gravity, for him it's the only truth about
    > memetics, as truthful and self-evident as gravity). IMHO there are
    > other levels of understanding, and a crucial one, that Wade is right
    > in pointing out, is the question of the medium through which memes
    > travel from person to person. We can say that individuals have ideas
    > and thoughts, and we are able to say that people have theories of
    > other peoples' minds which enable us to glean meaning and intent from
    > others, but to categorically state that one idea transmits exactly
    > from one person to another is surely flawed. The answer that it isn't
    > all ideas, but only memes is an obfuscation because in either case how
    > do they (whatever "they' may be) get from one person to another?
    > Joe adds in the point that proximate meanings are transmittable in
    > different forms, and he's certainly right, as if that weren't true
    > then language would have no point as it wouldn't convey any consensual
    > meaning between people. HOWEVER, there's a massive difference between
    > saying that in principle the spoken and written versions of a sentence
    > can convey essentially the same meaning, and what happens in practice.
    > A welter of research in communications studies (including media
    > studies) has shown that even apparently simple messages -public health
    > advertising for example- can and are received by individuals in wildly
    > different ways. The intent of the transmitter can, and often is, lost
    > in the very mediation of the message.
    I can also transmit the same message using different words, or a different word order, which alters the performance, and requires cognitive parsing to recover the selfsame meaning (I can do that, that I can do, do that I can).
    > This then leads to several points that need to be taken into account
    > when considering memes, and their transmission and reception:
    > - All forms of mediation are open to differential reception because no
    > form of mediation conveys absolute, fixed meanings - Reception of
    > mediated messages is highly context sensitive (both in terms of the
    > individual doing the receiving and the social, physical and temporal
    > context in which they are receiving the message)
    > The combination of these two points mean that a third point has to be
    > considered:
    > - There can be no perfect replication of a meme from one mind to
    > another, assuming that the only way it could travel between two minds
    > is in some mediated form.
    And, while similar, the cognitive gestalts are themselves not identical, so even if a precisely identical meme was communicated, it would be assimilated by and accommodate to the similar yet different cognitive environments in similar yet differing ways.
    > How then might one still accomodate the notion of memes within such
    > assumptions? Well, first we must recognise the importance of Searle's
    > idea of the construction of social reality (as opposed to the social
    > construction of reality), in other words those adaptive drives from
    > social conformity and status that lead most people to comply with the
    > rules and conventions of the society they're born into. The extent of
    > this is so widespread that it accomodates a typically high level of
    > consensus of meaning in message transmission. Second, even allowing
    > for this, one still cannot make predictions about what might become
    > memes or not, nor can one directly identify a meme in a mind (because
    > it might look/be very different in the next mind), all one can do is
    > follow the course of what we can retrospectively refer to as a meme
    > through its repeated articulaton and representation in mediated form,
    > which brings us back to the centrality of artefacts (I won't discount
    > performance here, although increasingly acts of performance and ritual
    > are experienced in mediated forms, at least in the developed world, so
    > we're witnessing the TV mediation of the performance of the
    > Israel/Palestine summit, not the actual performance).
    > And that's probably enough... for now...
    > Vincent
    > > ----------
    > > From: Wade T. Smith
    > > Reply To:
    > > Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 4:30 PM
    > > To:
    > > Subject: transmission
    > >
    > > n 1: the act of sending a message; causing a message to be
    > > transmitted [syn: transmittal, transmitting]
    > >
    > > That humans transmit is self-evident. That information is present in
    > > the messages being transmitted is also not in dispute.
    > >
    > > But what _is_ in dispute, and it's not a skeptical position, it's a
    > > straight up logical and procedural one, is whether or not the
    > > information being transmitted gets transmitted in toto from one
    > > human to another, and it is my contention that, since there is no
    > > direct means of this transfer (i.e. telepathy is not an agent in
    > > this universe), the information in one mind is, at best, a
    > > reasonably accurate representation of the information in another's,
    > > and the maintenance of the accuracy of this representation is the
    > > duty of culture, as well as a function of a mind in a society of
    > > minds.
    > >
    > > Thus, I claim, and I see no refute, that saying 'information is
    > > being passed from one mind to another' is a grossly simplistic way
    > > to describe the actual events, agents, objectives, participants,
    > > media, and processes that go into _any_ cultural (indeed, any
    > > interpersonal) interaction.
    > >
    > > And it is a simplicity that dumbs down any further effort to explore
    > > memetics, if not halt it altogether.
    > >
    > > - Wade
    > >
    > >
    > > =============================================================== This
    > > was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of
    > > Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For
    > > information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

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