From: Dace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri 28 Nov 2003 - 07:50:39 GMT
> From: derek gatherer <email@example.com>
> Ted: I'd say when the Queen showed up for
> > her date with Bush (who
> > was wearing a white tuxedo) sporting a blue sash, we
> > can pretty well figure
> > it's gone memetic.
> Except the queen always wears a blue sash. No memetic
> transmission there.
The sash was the exact shade of blue that W. has been sporting in his ties.
I don't recall the name, but it's one of dozens of shades. It was reported
that the Queen wore this shade instead of the usual royal blue so as to take
part in the new "phenomenon." Even if the detail about the Queen turns out
to be a misunderstanding on the part of the reporter, it's still a clear-cut
meme. The blue tie craze is exactly the sort of thing Dawkins had in mind
when he coined the term.
The question is at what point the behavior became memetic, that is, when it
ceased to be a normal function of human interaction-- such as underlings
aping the boss to get on his good side-- and took on a life of its own.
Until this is resolved we have no clear idea of what a meme is because we
can't distinguish it from the background of human culture. This is a major
reason memetics is generally not taken seriously, and this problem has been
brought about in large part by the big thinkers who wish to reduce the whole
of culture to memes.
There's a new meme in Washington. Seems that Bush came to town wearing a blue tie. No one in Washington had ever worn a blue tie or could remember seeing anyone else in a blue tie. Up till then, there had been only three to choose from: the red "power" tie, the striped "Harvard" tie, and the
"bureaucrat" gold (at least according to Roger Mudd, who reported this story on the Lehrer Newshour). Pretty soon, the cabinet caught on, starting with personal advisor Karl Rove, the last holdout being Colin Powell (and his CIA man, Tenet). Beyond the White House they've started popping up all over town.
Clearly, it's a meme. The question is when it became a meme, i.e., when did
it cease to depend on human sense for its replication? Certainly when Bush
began wearing it, it was not a meme. After all, he was the only one doing
it, and to be a meme it must spread to at least one other person. But that
doesn't mean it automatically became a meme when Rove picked it up. As
long as people wore it for the perfectly sensible reason of getting on W.'s
side, it transmitted through normal cultural means rather than memetically.
Only when people genuinely started to like it did it became a meme.
Suddenly, it was "happening," and instead of choosing the tie, the tie began
choosing them. I'd say when the Queen showed up for her date with Bush (who
was wearing a white tuxedo) sporting a blue sash, we can pretty well figure
it's gone memetic. It had become a "thing," and naturally (as with the
Beatles 40 years ago) she wanted in on it.
Of course, I don't mean literally that the tie itself is the meme. A meme
is not a thing you put under a microscope. The meme is the behavior of
wearing the tie, and no, it's not tucked away somewhere in our prefrontal
lobes. No matter how many people are infected with the meme, it's still one
meme. So it doesn't exist in individual minds, i.e. brains. It exists in
the shared mind of a living culture.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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