the very model

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Mon 16 Jun 2003 - 01:15:26 GMT

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    On Sunday, June 15, 2003, at 04:52 PM, Richard wrote:

    > I look forward to someone some day explaining exactly what the
    > "performance model" is. :)

    The performance model is one where the gene analog is also called the meme, and one where the concern is also about cultural evolution, but one where this analogous unit is contained not within one organism, like a cell, but within one performance, and then goes on to claim that all performances are unique, but will, in an enforced cultural venue, be similar enough to continue and maintain the venue itself. (A baseball game will continue to use four bases, a bat, and a ball.) The performance model claims that cultural evolution is not possible without at least three agents- a performer, an observer, and a place for performance and observation. This is analogous to the agents of the genetic model- two sexes, (or simply a splitting into two new wholes, and the included chance of mutation), and the new species so created, which needs to be similar enough to continue and maintain itself.
    (Every mule is an island, but the horse has several pedigrees.) The genetic material that gets transferred by the sexual process (and the sexual process is more apt to cultural evolution than any other) is not properly analogized in _any_ memetic model other than the performance model.

    Of course, I've spoken and amplified upon explanations of the performance model at considerable length here, so, please feel free to peruse the archives. Kenneth and William Benzon have also expanded and joined in these explanations, and it is consistent with the G-meme. In fact, it is from early considerations of William's and Derek's posts that I've arrived at this formulation of cultural evolution, which, I totally admit, I do for my own edification and understanding and enjoyment, in much the same way I listen to John Zorn and then to Lucinda Williams and then to Pink Floyd....

    But, I have striven in some vain to indicate that it is _only_ to cultural evolution that this model attaches. It is not a theory or model of cognition, or memory, or thought in any specificity or generality, nor is it a model of society or language and it is most certainly not a philosophy or a branch of mathematics or logic. Humans are accepted as self-conscious and creative creatures in this model, and given as such to culture's mechanics. It is also an expansion of basic artistic performance and aesthetic theories, from Aristotle to Cage, and to Zorn, if you need the whole alphabet.

    It is, and I would have thought this would impart itself to you, the most relevant model to PR and marketing and advertising and influence approaches to memetic 'engineering'. In the performance model, there is a strong influence from the introduction of changes to the parameters and expectations of the venue to changes in the performances of the agents. It is not the idea, or even the truth of the idea, that matters to cultural evolution, but the control exerted by the influence of the parametrically described societal venue the culture in maintenance is continuing. Religion is an excellent example of this, as is advertising and education, and, well, all of culture, of course, even down to table manners. It is not the idea in the head that matters to culture, but the performance that continues to enforce others. It is not the gene in the body that matters to biological evolution, but the sexual act that continues to produce offspring. Memetics, if it claims all agency of cultural evolution within the brain, is simply not sexy enough....

    So, since I've sort've handed myself the sceptre of its crown, so to speak, I'll enlist Keith, who took his ball home and who doesn't even talk to me or listen to me anymore, to help me out. Don't tell him....

    > [Keith]- I would like to suggest you consider a simplification
    > consistent with Darkins [gack! he misspelled the saint's name!] and
    > Dennett,

    And, keep that thought. But, replace 'simplification' with 'necessary and sufficient condition'.

    > [Keith again]- namely memes as pure information, independent of media.

    I move this particular phrase aside, because, IMHO, neither Dawkins nor Dennett have any interest in denying the media, or making it independent of the information encoded within it, or vice versa. Vincent would not be here if this were the case, and neither would I. I won't speak for you, but from what I've seen of your interest with perceptual studies and theories, you wouldn't be either.

    So, we have a meme as necessary and sufficient condition... for what? For cultural evolution, per Dawkins, and per Dennett, and per almost everyone else in the memetic world. (There is a heated and contentious argument about what constitutes culture, as well, and who, or what, has it. I don't care, much, as long as one demands that whatever it is continues through self-conscious performance and not through instinct.)

    > [Keith again]- So the meme of chipped arrowheads would amount to the
    > information about how to make and use them.

    Yes. But, don't stop there- this information is useless to cultural evolution until and unless it gets observed in performance, but, let Keith continue-

    > Taking only the making part, the information could exist in a human
    > mind,

    The performance model totally accepts this, but, hey, what is mind, if not a brain in a body?- let's not forget Damasio, now- this memory of making is also a sensual memory of physical contact.)

    > on paper (though for sure it would be tough to successfully describe
    > how to chip rocks in text alone), in a video of someone chipping out
    > an arrowhead, or to some extent in the object of an arrowhead itself
    > if a person who knew rock chipping but not arrowheads could duplicate
    > one from a sample.

    What Keith is defining in the above are three instances of _artifacts_, which are themselves _results_ of performances, _not_ any sort of
    _mere_ information at all. Big, big, _big_, difference between a performance and the information in a mind. This is a crucial point- there is no such thing as a perfect performance of any information in any mind such that precisely exact copies of information are formed- each performance, each artifact, regardless of how carefully rehearsed or how skillfully performed, is not the information. It may be close, it may be damn near ideal, but it is not exact- it is not the same, it is not the self-same, it is not the information itself, and no perception of this performance will create the same, the self-same, or the exact information in the observing mind. This is a physical impossibility imparted by the nature of perception itself. There is no such thing as exact encoding of information in any organic structure, and even the most precise copying mechanisms of life which do exist at cellular levels are not immune to alteration. If all things were the same, we wouldn't be here to see how different they are.

    > [Keith again]- A subculture is just a collection of memes. The fact
    > that a whole bunch of them are bound up in a mutually supporting
    > package is not unlike Dawkins pointing out that genes are bound
    > together in much the same way in a genome.

    This should seem applicable to any model of cultural evolution, and, if I have done any good here at all, then let me rephrase it according to the performance model-

    "A subculture is just a collection of performances. The fact that a whole bunch of them are bound up in a mutually supporting package (the cultural venue) is not unlike Dawkins pointing out that genes are bound together in much the same way in a genome."

    - and thank Keith for showing me, and I hope you, that the models themselves are not so much aberrant from each other- it is only the word 'meme' that gets applied in different places.

    And, since I'm here, IMHO, there is no efficacy to putting a meme in a mind for any model of cultural evolution, but that is my own bias, and I'll cop to it.

    Now, viral patterns of thought as arbiters of behaviors are _another_ matter entirely....

    - Wade

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