Re: memetics/memics/mimetics

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Tue 27 Jan 2004 - 20:22:32 GMT

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    Keith Henson wrote:

    > At 08:33 PM 26/01/04 -0500, Scott wrote:
    > ><Keith>
    > >>So from usage memetics comes out ahead by on the order of 100 to one (at
    > >>this time).
    > snip
    > >What sort of criterion is hits on google beyond being a popularity
    > >contest? Does popularity translate to validity?
    > In matter of this sort, yes. If you use the more common word where there
    > are equal choices your message is more likely to be understood.

    but it will be understood by conventional understanding which might not be consistent with the technical, academic or professional understanding of the term. not an unusual thing in law. different language groups can use identical words to mean different things and this occurs even amongst professionals. eg schizophrenia.

    the original objection was that "meme" and its variants were being used like a term such as "mana". (dare I still use the term "floating signifier", or has it been discredited in the US?)

    > For example, "culturgen" has the exact same meaning as meme.

    > Lecture 14 Culture and Evolution
    > ... Culture consists of bits of information sometimes called culturgens.
    > Culturgens can be spread both horizontally and vertically ...
    > - 63k - Cached - Similar pages

    might also think of Mauss' "total social fact" in Levi-Strauss' 1950 "Introduction to the work of Marcel Mauss". Ch II. (it was meant to be inclusive of human biology) I will post an extract if there is any interest.

    ("total social fact" - 254 hits on google, add 'meme' takes you to one) (note: testing other google samples provided today, I get significantly different results
    - only 877,000 for "Scientology" - try adding "cult")

    It's pretty common for basic terminology to be disputed in different fields. There is the fiery debate about "consciousness" for example, which different models of memes might be shadowing. To what extent do various disciplines tend to divide along binary lines on basic issues?

    In terms of linguistic usage might also think of how academic usage of the term
    "volksgeist" was hijacked in the early 20th Century, or the great inversion of the meanings of "objective" and "subjective" in late 18th, early 19th Century England. evolutionary etymology has much to tell us.

    The original objection, however concerned what I took to be glib references to the
    "drug addiction meme" or the "smoking meme", which I see as incomprehensible. At times on the list there is a dialect or private language being used - amongst like minds, it is interesting for requiring us to evaluate our own role in understanding the words of others.

    As useful project would be an inventory of meme-related terms such as culturgen or total social fact. There is a great need to understand the dynamics and psychology of "collective thought."

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