Re: "Abstract" Memes?

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Wed 30 Nov 2005 - 11:52:51 GMT

  • Next message: Douglas Brooker: "Re: "Abstract" Memes?"

    Davi Johnson wrote:
    >>>relatively enduring concepts/terms/ideologies
    >>>like "equality" or "liberty" also memetic,
    >>Ask yourself, are they information? Do they replicate? Do
    > they influence
    >>human behavior?
    > That is largely my question: ARE they information (and in
    > what sense)? Because it seems that something like "equality"
    > is very polysemous, and that enhances its longevity. It is
    > attractive to people because its meaning seems so grounded,
    > or evident, but it tends to get deployed with very different
    > connotations and effects. So my difficulty is trying to
    > think _what_ about equality is memetic (or what defines
    > equality as a meme): is it the term itself, and its
    > replication is enhanced by this perceived universality of
    > meaning? Or is it something about the information it
    > embodies. And if the latter is the case (which seems more in
    > line with memetics, to my understanding), how to pinpoint
    > the "essence" of the meme, given its variable usage
    > throughout history and across contexts.
    > Things like songs, making shoes and chipping rock (or
    > hanging Xmas trees upside down--just read about this in the
    > AJC and it screamed "meme" to me) seem to me to be
    > more "material" than abstract concepts or ideas, easier to
    > understand as concrete practices. For the abstract ideas, I
    > am stuck on how to identify what might define them
    > as "meme."
    > (They definitely influence behavior, and they do seem to
    > replicate).

    There isn't any essential difference between the memes in all of these cases - all are portions of information - but some have more concrete phenotypic effects than others. Memes like equality have their
    'essence' pinpointed by dictionaries, which carefully delineate these memes' varying usages and content across time and context.

    What defines them, and any other meme, as 'meme' is that they are portions of representational content. In other words they are representions of a particular chunk of information.

    Information can be complex as well as simple. This is reflected in the varying lengths of definition of words in dictionaries; in the density of notes on a stave; in the number of symbols in a mathematical or chemical equation; etc.


    =============================================================== 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 : Wed 30 Nov 2005 - 13:41:07 GMT