Re: the performance model

From: Wade T. Smith (
Date: Tue 17 Jun 2003 - 15:35:24 GMT

  • Next message: Bruce Edmonds: "FROM MODERATOR: this is not a list about Islam!"

    On Tuesday, June 17, 2003, at 01:51 AM, Richard wrote:

    > Its name is "memetics." I've written a 250-page book on it. You could
    > also
    > read Daniel Dennett's excellent book "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" if you
    > wish
    > to understand memetics.

    Well, this might get nasty, but maybe not.

    I've read Darwin's Dangerous Idea. page by page and cover to cover. I've sat at Dennett's lectures. It's one of the cornerstones of my thinking about the performance model of cultural evolution. I call
    _that_ memetics, too. But, memetics is not just the meme.

    You see, the performance model is not an attempt to undermine memetics, but it is an attempt to remove the unnecessary and merely postulated and non-empirical entity known as the memeinthemind.

    > The core of the model is that the future of a culture is created by
    > the differential selection of cultural replicators.

    Guess what? That's the exact same thing that is at the core of the performance model.

    > Cultural replicators include memes, artifacts, and cultural organisms
    > such as religions, chain letters, and governments.

    Guess what again? Well, with some qualifications. The performance model does not call anything but the meme itself a cultural replicator. Artifacts are special cases of performance, sustained through time. Religions are isolational cultural and social venues. Chain letters are useless, but that's my prejudice.... Governments are social infrastructures as well as cultural venues. The only meme in the performance model is the performance itself within a venue, as this is the only thing which may be selected, and that's a matter of obvious logic. I can't select my government, even when I'm allowed to vote....

    > Numerous factors influence this differential selection, most
    > importantly the nature of the human mind (psychology).

    Guess what again. No qualification needed in the comparison of models.

    > People's behavior is caused by the interaction of their nature, the
    > information in their minds, and external stimulus.

    DItto, ditto, ditto.

    > It is through this behavior that cultural replicators replicate.

    Ah, the crux. You see- you have just described the performance model to a T. In fact, that last sentence of yours, well, there it is. IT IS THROUGH THIS BEHAVIOR THAT MEMES REPLICATE. (Emphasis mine.)

    It is through the performance (which is the behavior as observed within the venue) that memes replicate.

    I couldn't have said it better myself. Are you ready to live dangerously, yet?

    > A successful meme in a mind influences behavior, which causes the meme
    > to be replicated in another mind.

    I'm sorry, but, prove this.

    > I've defined meme many times for you.

    But you can't _show_ anyone one, which means you can only _suppose_ how it works in a brain, and then _suppose_ how it works to alter culture. The performance model can _show_ everyone a meme, _show_ how it gets observed in a brain, and then _show_ how it, through following performance, alters culture. Hell, I can define god many times for you.

    > I think we both know the Capital of Massachusetts beyond any doubt.

    That is just hand waving. Which is all the memeinthemind will ever be. Your example here does not prove any memetic entity in a brain, it merely shows a common knowledge. We both know lots of similar things. It ain't what we know, as memories are merely that, but what we do with it. In your case, ellipsoidal comment. Nobody actually gave the answer here- do you really know the Capital of Massachusetts? ;-) In my case, I can say I not only know it, but I've stood at its effectual center. Since you don't have that memory, there is doubt about what you know and I know, and no reason to say we know the same thing, or that the same thing is in our heads. Again, hand waving is all this memeinthemind thingee will ever be.

    I deny the memeinthemind. Not only that, I claim it is an extraordinary claim, and requires extraordinary proof. Please supply it, keeping your hands at your sides.

    The performance model has been doing an irish step dance around the memeinthemind model, and its music is way better.

    > I'm guessing your point is that the presence of artifacts (as well as
    > natural landscape I suppose) and the shared language of the people
    > involved influences both the performance and the observation. This
    > concurs with the memetic model.

    Don't just guess, you've got it. The performance model just doesn't then make the outrageous claim that something gets transferred in this process from one mind to another.

    > To test your model, pick any venue and I'll pick two sets of a dozen
    > people, one of which has memorized "As You Like It" and one of which
    > hasn't. An impartial observer will decide if the two performances can
    > be called by the same "cultural marker." Next, to test my model, I'll
    > pick a set of a dozen people and you pick any two venues. We'll ask an
    > impartial observer the same question. Do we need to perform the
    > experiments?

    Now, if you meant that these groups were supposed to _perform_ As You Like It, well, you haven't included enough parameters to make this performance possible, which is the job of the venue. At any rate, it would not be a relevant experiment. But, let's say that is the experiment you want to do- 'picking any venue' is not possible, of course, as the venue for 'As You Like It' includes, _at a minimum_, the script, and a set of humans who can read and understand english, so, yes, if I had a set of people who had memorized As You Like It and another set who didn't, and supplied them both with scripts, then this impartial observer of whom you speak would indeed say, 'yes, these are both attempts at a performance of 'As You Like It." One point to the performance model.

    Okay, I'll have to say I don't quite understand your experiments.

    In the second experiment, "[you] pick a set of a dozen people and [I] pick any two venues", and I take them to a performance of Shakespeare's As You Like It. Then I take them to a bus stop. When the time is up, we ask them what they've just seen. They say, 'We've just seen a performance of William Shakespeare's As You Like It', and then we've been standing around at a bus stop'. And if we ask an observer where they've been, he wouldn't know where they'd been unless he was with them, or heard them say where they'd been.

    When the same groups are in two different venues, well, they don't have arrive at the same conclusions about where they've been and what they've done. And if someone doesn't observe what has happened, or been told about it, ignorance is the only response. But, perhaps I've misread your examples. At any rate, no points to the memeinthemind model.

    At another rate, this is all a very clear case of how making an experiment to do anything for memetic exploration is a dicey chore, with no real or obvious examples of good ones. Making useful experiments is tough enough, but making them in memetics is double tough. The whole baseball island experiment fiasco is a prime example. That baby was totally useless to show anything.

    > I'm not sure how a venue, which you've described as pretty much the
    > entire universe available to the participants, can have a "duty."

    The cultural venue is, I suppose, at some level, the entire universe available to the participants, but it is the 'duty' of a specific cultural venue to limit this universe for the purposes of eliciting expected performances. Thus, within the social universe of the USA, we have smaller social universes of neighborhoods, and within the artistic universe of dramatic presentation, we have 'As You Like It'. The cultural venue of 'As You Like It' commands several parameters- acting skill at a high level. Comprehension and detail of language. The machineries of stagecraft. And with each theatre or space, these parameters are different, but always, the parameters that make 'As You Like It' 'As You Like It' are maintained. The script, however edited, needs continuation. The characters need continuation, etc.

    A cultural venue is responsible for eliciting performances. A stable cultural venue continues performances that are of a high degree of congruence with the preceding performances. Religious rituals in a church are great examples of this. So are classrooms. So is a road. So are internet forums. So are Shakespeare plays, which in most cases, have not even had their language updated to contemporary practices, but maintain the elizabethan.

    > Of course memetics requires behavior and interaction among people. Of
    > course meme transmission is a probabilistic process. Of course memes
    > are transmitted through behavior, not telepathy.

    While the performance model semi-agrees with all the above, all the above makes the still unproven claim that there is a meme in a mind that is being transferred. The performance model does not claim that. It only claims that there is a unique performance which may or may not, through the vagaries of psychology, chance, weather, etc, be observed and then repeated, and a venue constructed by agents of these performances that attempts to ensure the rigorous continuation of similar performances. As you say, it's all a probabilistic process.

    > You contradict yourself. If each performance is unique, there is no
    > repeat.

    No, there is no contradiction. Each human is unique, but they are all
    'repeats' of homo sapiens sapiens. Each dog is unique, but they are all repeats of 'canine'. Yes, each and every meme is not only unique, (each and every performance is not only unique), but they are momentarily unique. They are temporal. They are not continuous. (The old analogy to film fits here, of course.) It is culture's job to parametrize the venue with enough precision to ensure similar performances, such that each dog is a canine, and not a giraffe, and each 'As You Like It' is an 'As You Like It', and it is _only_ culture that can attempt to be continuous, by eliciting similar performances, not some ghost entity in a mind that somehow stays the same.

    And I only speak of uniqueness in the very concise way that every item is unique. Certainly you would not claim that every performance of Beethoven's Fifth is not unique, would you? And yet, I'm also sure you would, in fact, claim that every performance is not only unique, but that you would also call the Bernstein Columbia recordings and the Bruno Walter Columbia recordings with the same orchestra different, and yet, at no time would you claim that all of these performances are not Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This is what I mean by the cultural marker- the venue that commands Beethoven's Fifth Symphony will attempt to always command it, even when the venue stretches to disco, and that happened. It made many people claim that Ludwig was spinning in his grave, but no-one claimed it was not the Fifth, although they wanted many to take the fifth after listening to it. Sure, call it a name. But it's also a thing to perform.

    Ray provides another misunderstanding of the performance model with his specious criticism, below-

    > [the performance model] requires a 'place where performer and observer
    > are present together', and thus if a person writes a book two hundred
    > years ago and a modern day reader learns something from it [this]
    > model recognizes no meme at all.

    Any artifact is a result of a performance. Thus all artifacts are the results of a meme. The performance model recognizes this quite well.
    _Any_ artifact is a special case of performance that exists for an extended duration. But, and this is crucial, the venue of the artifact, and the venue of the observation of the artifact, have to be similar enough, contain enough of the same parameters, to allow the artifact to supply meaning, to perform, if you will. This is what is meant by
    'present together'. Any artifact, to be understood, needs its observer to be in the same cultural venue it was produced within. Again, I have the example of the Tlingit elders (where, oh where, is any analysis of this example from the memeinthemind folks? Well, since it disproves their model, they avoid it like the plague), where the venue of artifactual performance and the venue of current observation are disjoint to the point where even blood relatives of the originators of the artifact have lost the meaning of it. The performance model not only recognizes memes, and recognizes the special case of memes that artifacts are, it is the only model that recognizes the effect of time and place upon the venue, and upon the meaning that only culture can provide. This artifact and the current Tlingit elders were not 'present together', and they never will be. Time travel is not possible.

    > [Ray] However, the "no two performances are the same" statement
    > reveals that we can't even say that two performance are the same.

    There _is_ no 'however' point to make, here, Ray- the performance model does not _want_ 'same' performances, it only wants _similar_ performances, and it would have little use of exact duplicate performances if it found them- in all ways, this would be a falsification of the model!

    > [Ray] Strictly limiting memetic analysis to the parameters suggested
    > by [the performance model] seems unnecessary.

    Again, this is a blindly specious misreading of the model, if not a complete ignorance of its precepts. In dire fact, the performance model has _too_ many parameters to reasonably consider- it has the entire cultural venue, the entire psychology and physiognomy of the performers and the observers, every intent and motivation of the agents, the entire history of the society, the entire environment of the place, and every and each performance within all of this. A confounding set of parameters. There is no 'strict limiting' of anything in the performance model, and I'm mystified to know why Ray thinks there is.

    Alas, Ray continues-

    > However, despite his extensive and continuous posting to this list, I
    > doubt Wade will be doing any of it.

    - and this time he is probably correct- I am not a scholar, nor an academician, nor a graduate student, nor a professor- I also doubt that I will doing any real empirical memetic work.

    Then again, I doubt very many have involved themselves in empirical work using any model of memetics, all things considered.

    - 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 archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 17 Jun 2003 - 15:44:41 GMT