RE: quite amusing memetics article

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 16 Dec 2003 - 14:28:24 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Memetics basics"

    At 01:00 PM 16/12/03 +0000, you wrote:
    > > > I enjoyed this:
    > > >
    > >
    > <V good, though the Arnold-as-meme-projector phenomenon has been
    > > by the theory (and Gladwell's Tipping point makes it clear the Madison Ave
    > > crowd is already there)....I also saw resaerch recently that shows the
    > > appeal of OK, Hello et al is that we yearn for role models, and we don't
    > > have small communities anymore so we access teh global villages' brightest
    > > stars - more power to Blackwell's thesis .>
    > >
    > Indeed, there's a whole set of theories around celebrity worship,
    >and the popularity of tabloid sex and scandal stories. One author suggested
    >that the reason people seem so interested in celebrities private lives is
    >that their breaches of behaviour (drugs, affairs, and what have you) act as
    >'middle order moral events'- in other words actions that don't have literal
    >profound social consequences but give people a common event through which to
    >articulate, discuss and evaluate their own, and wider society's moral
    >values. Check out Tomlinson's chapter in Lull & Hinerman's interesting 1997
    >book 'Media Scandals'.

    Good points.

    A more fundamental question is why we have celebrities at all? Humans evolved in hunter-gatherer groups that topped out most of the time at 100-150 people. Our abilities to recognize people might stretch 5 times that high, but evolution doesn't tend to build in a lot of excess capacity
    (brains are *really* expensive to run, and a substantial fraction of them is devoted to face recognition). "Generally known" people probably map into the leaders of a tribe--which puts a cap on the number of people a mass media communicating population can consider celebrities.

    Prediction: the "shape of the curve" for celebs (numbers vs a measure of their popularity) in a mass media communicating population will be a constant over time since it depends on the average human mental ability to recognize and "know about" a limited number of people and not variables such as the size of the population.

    List members with more time than I have might be able to extend these speculations.

    Keith Henson

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