From: Kate Distin (email@example.com)
Date: Thu 04 May 2006 - 09:43:52 GMT
>> From: Kate Distin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>> Subject: Re: RS string
>> Dace wrote:
>>> As Katie would point out,
> Whoops. I was thinking of Katie Couric. Two reasons: she's in the news
> here because she's taking over Tom Brokaw's slot at NBC, the first woman
> ever to anchor for a major US network, and second, because I've been swamped
> at work in the last week with interviews conducted by Couric and other Today
> Show staff from the late 90s. (This is for a TV show about serial killers,
> iincluding Andrew Cunanan and the Columbine killers from that era). So I'm
> constantly hearing the name Katie as I transcribe the interviews. Hence the
> mutant meme.
That's ok. I shouldn't really complain - I am the world's worst with
names and faces.
>>> only the rules, taken as an abstraction outside
>>> the context of any given game, would constitute an RS. If you learn
>>> baseball from a rulebook, then the baseball meme has been transferred.
>> I'm not convinced that baseball rules do constitute an RS.
> Nor am I claiming they do. The RS in question is natural language. It's
> via language that the rules of baseball are expressed. I agree with your
> thesis, as expressed in *The Selfish Meme* (Distin, CUP, 2005) that memes
> exist only in the context of an RS. But the fundamental RS is not language
> or musical or mathematical notation, etc., but conceptual thought itself.
I don't think that there is a 'fundamental' RS. I think that all of them have equal status (although natural languages are easily the most flexible).
> It's because we share a conceptual RS
Presumably you mean some sort of Fodorian 'mentalese'? I'm not
convinced by Fodor on this one (or perhaps haven't read enough of him,
recently enough, to have been convinced yet).
> that the baseball meme can be imparted
> by watching baseball games and reflecting on what we're seeing rather than
> consulting a rulebook that imparts the meme on the basis of the RS of
> natural language.
When we watch games and infer the rules by reflecting on what we're seeing, I don't think that the baseball meme *is* being imparted. Rather than being replicated, we're re-inventing it for ourselves, the basis of knowledge that we bring to the situation.
> So long as musician and listener share roughly the same
> aesthetic RS, the meme for a tune can can come across just as easily by
> hearing it as reading a score.
Again - I think that the tune itself can come across either way, but the
information underlying it (was that note a B flat or an A sharp? Is the
music written in 3/4 time or 6/8 time? etc.) does not come across unless
you have the music in front of you. You can reconstruct it for yourself
by listening, but that isn't the same thing as replication.
> The difference, of course, is that
> conceptual or aesthetic thought cannot be directly expressed outside the
> mind. Instead, a subsidiary RS, such as natural language or musical
> notation, must be employed.
True. Language is primarily communicative.
> This gives the impression that the text or the
> score is essential to the passage of the meme. It is not.
I don't see how this follows. Some means of replicating information is
essential to the passage of the meme.
>> I see some words on a
>> page, because I can read English. A monolingual Punjabi-speaker, or a
>> pre-literate child, sees bits of ink arranged in a particular order.
> You and the child both see ink arranged in a particular order. Only with
> the mental background you bring to your sensory experience is the
> arrangement of ink translated into "words."
>> I don't just make up what I see.
> Well, naturally. The ink is, after all, physically real. Physics is about
> matter and energy. When you claim that the words exist on the page, you're
> saying these are elements of the physical world, that physics includes
> "word" and "representation" as quantifiable concepts. Certainly, this is
> not any kind of physics that Galileo, Newton or Einstein would have
Physics is one level of description for any natural phenomenon. There are others, equally valid and in some contexts more useful: e.g. biology, chemistry, psychology. Physics is about not only matter and energy, but also the arrangements of matter and energy, interactions between them, etc.
>> The words hold the
>> information until the next person comes along and interprets them.
>> Extracts the information from them, if you like.
> It's precisely because it's only ink and not a word that it must be
> *interpreted* as such. Rather than extract information from the ink, the
> reader generates the information appropriate to that arrangement of ink in
> the context of the shared RS (language) of writer and reader. Rather than
> literally conveying the information, the arrangement of ink merely
> facilitates its reproduction from one mind to another. At no point is the
> information physical. At no point does it materialize in the form of an
> artifact, such as a book of rules or a musical score, in its passage from
> mind to mind. Yet the information still gets across.
Ok - I think that here you've crystallized our fundamental difference of opinion. I accept that genuine replication happens in culture, and you
(in common with many others, it must be said) do not. I agree with your interpretation (below) of what's going on when watching a game or listening to a piece of music; but I think that there is something fundamentally different going on when we get our cultural information via RSs. I think that then there is genuine replication going on.
> So too, the
> fundamental RS of conceptual thought enables memes to transmit without even
> the appearance of material conveyence. Thus the baseball meme is
> transmitted without recourse to a rulebook, and (on the basis of aesthetic
> thought) the tune meme transmits without recourse to a musical score. Like
> memes themselves, the relevant RS is always mental, even if it happens in
> some cases to appear to be materialized.
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