From: Keith Henson (email@example.com)
Date: Fri 10 Feb 2006 - 05:16:32 GMT
At 08:09 PM 2/9/2006 +0000, you wrote:
>Keith Henson wrote:
>>At 03:02 PM 2/9/2006 +0000, Douglas Brooker wrote:
>>>the problem I think, as some of the replies indicate, including the
>>>above, is that some have jumped right into the substantive issues,
>>>good-bad, right-wrong, rather than a memetic analysis.
>>Correct. For example, why did the cartoon meme take the time it did and
>>not more or less time to snowball?
>your earlier post on this point was not amongst the replies I was
>I'm a non-memeticist looking for suggested answers. In memetic terms,
>what kinds of answers are possible to explain the snowballing?
"Snowballing" is a colloquial term for fast growth. Under some conditions,
a ball of snow rolling down hill picks up more and more snow until it
becomes huge. Growth in the number of those infected by a meme depends on
the expansion, i.e., how many people are infected by one person. The math
that describes this is exactly the same as that describing epidemics.
There is (in engineering terms) gain, spread-out number and the time
constant which it takes for the meme to spread. Assume it has reached half
of the Islamic population, 500 million (though motivating a smaller number
to riot) starting from 5 upset Islamics in Denmark.
That's an expansion of 100,000,000. or ten exp 8. Ten exp 3 is about 10
doublings, 10 exp 6 is 20 doublings. 10 exp 8 is about 28 doublings. Now
given that this has been expanding since Sept, it's reasonable for it to
have been "organic" with a doubling time of roughly 5 days.
Of course in the later stages it was starting to make news, so the "gain"
factor went up, though at a time when a substantial fraction of the
population already had been infected.
So while governments might have been involved, there is evidence it spread
out (in the early stages at least) just by infecting those who could be
As to *why* they were easy to infect, I make the case that the Islamic
population is aware of their poor economic prospects. This maps back to
the stone age when such recognition of an overloaded ecosystem (economics
of that time) lead to high gain of xenophobic memes and wars between groups
that reduced the population and the load on the ecosystem.
>My working theory is that an explanation by a western memeticist will
>betray how they feel about the underlying issue in the 'news'. That's to
>say, 'they'll spin it in their favour' and moreover won't recognise this
>is being done.
I use evolutionary psychology as a tool to understand human psychological
traits that underlie the transmission of memes. It is a depressing area of
study because it leads to predictions of vast number of people dying one
way or another.
>>>Should not an adequate account of this start off with an account of the
>>>commentator's own memeplex of values which are to be used the subsequent
>>I am not sure "values" is the correct term to use in analyzing the
>>psychological "forces" behind the spread of the "cartoon meme".
>Are you saying that memes simply refer to psychological forces?
No. Memes are like computer viruses or diseases. To understand their
spread you need to understand the host and the two factor of gain and time
>The point about the commentator's memeplex of 'values' is that they are
>implicit, but unstated in the analysis and should be accounted for.
>They are problematic, as you seem to agree, for an adequate enquiry.
>all the relevant memes should be part of the enquiry, including the
>A stronger phrase than 'values' would refer to the researcher's "cultural
>indoctrination", that dictates perceptions can occur only within the
>boundaries the native culture permits. Once a memetic analysis
>involves a non-native culture, the values - cultural indoctrination -
>become quite problematic - which was the point that prompted me to
>initially post. (my field is comparative law, and would suggest a need
>for something comparable, like comparative memetics)
It is certainly true that cultures are more susceptible to some memes than
others. But the evolutionary psychology argument is that all cultures are
more susceptible to xenophobic memes of the kind that lead to wars when the
average member of the cult sees a bleak future.
>I would like to hear an Islamic memeticist explain the issues.
A few years ago I would have doubted the existence of someone who could
understand that religions *are* memes and still be in one. However Kate
has demonstrated that such people can exist.
>>My preferred takeoff point for looking at this is evolutionary
>>psychology. In theory, and to a large extent by those who use it,
>>evolutionary psychology is "value free."
>>Deplorable as the situations are in regard to battered wife syndrome,
>>understanding the evolutionary context that gave rise to the
>>psychological trait of "capture-bonding" is or at least should be value free.
>>I could mention another example, but fear to do so for starting a flame
>>war about the subject and not the underlying science.
>>>One reference, for example to "the protective strength to the religion
>>>given by the hypersensitivity to criticism aspects of the
>>>ideology." ought to be deconstructed for its own memetic qualities.
>>>so what is the 'hypersensitivity' meme? is it a purely subjective
>>>assessment residing in the minds of those who use the word? can some
>>>objective truth or insight about the meme in question result from the
>>>application of "hypersentitivity" as a measure?
>>Evolutionary psychology models give you reason to expect that sensitivity
>>to memes that lead to wars and other forms of social disruption is
>>dependant on measurable factors, particularly the per capita economic
>>history and future prospects.
>I'm speaking to the cultural bias of the term, 'hypersensitivity to
>criticism'. This could be unobjectionable if paired in the same
>sentence or paragraph with the point of view of the participants in the
>demonstrations - that they are only doing their duty as Muslims in
>protesting. And the term 'hypersensitivity" marks an ignorance of the
>intensity of Islamic culture. Islamic music provides clues about this
>sense of "intensity". It's not ABBA.
>An the pair - hypsensitivity versus Islamic duty - constitutes - what?
Islamic culture might well be hypersensitive to criticism compared to other
cultures. But that's an independent consideration. Whatever sensitivity
they have to xenophobic memes in good times is going to be worse in times
(like now) where the population is economically stressed.
>We might also have to add other actors who think they are doing their duty
>by publishing (standing up for 'free' speech, i.e. the right to insult
>other cultures) or (not to publish, i.e. to forestall reactions from those
>who find the expression of 'free' speech objectionable).
>This is a problematic field work issue - what paper published when, what
>was their circulation, other minute details, probably essential to a
>coherent scholarly account.
>Does anyone disagree that these are fields of the enquiry that *must* be
I do. You can get bogged down in academic detail and never see the
forest. That bad enough, but failing to see the forest is full of fuel
(population in excess of resources) can get too many of us killed.
>>>might comparison between 'honour cultures' and 'no honour cultures' be
>>>there is a lot buried here.
>>>first thing is to define the meme? yes? no?
>>No. Memes are elements of culture or replicating information
>>patterns. Very broad definition.
>you mean memes are ideas?
Yes. The hundred year old saying "ideas have a life of their own"
encapsulated the meme about memes.
>>>is it the cartoon? if so what are the qualities of the cartoon? Or is
>>>the meme the reaction to the qualities of the cartoon. what exactly is
>>>spreading? what are memetic qualities of the reactions in the western media?
>>It isn't important how you sort out the technical definitions of what is
>>causing people to charge into gunfire. What is important if you want to
>>do anything with the knowledge is understanding why they are doing it
>>*now* and not ten or 20 or 50 years ago.
>discipline should have a stock of technical definitions in place that
>permit classification of material encountered in the field quickly.
>something like the diagnosis in medicine.
>are you suggesting a memetic response team? my interest is purely
>academic - trying to hear an explanation of the events and 'forces' at
>work in memetic terms. or even a methodology by which a thesis could be
>adequately researched and proven.
One of the most important feature of an epidemic is how susceptible the
population is. This is especially important for memes because the gain
factor for the really nasty class of xenophobic memes depends on the
economic history of the population and what they see as future prospects.
If you can pick holes in this meme, please do. I would love to be shown I
am FOS on this subject.
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