RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon Apr 30 2001 - 17:07:12 BST

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics 
    Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2001 17:07:12 +0100
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    I don't mean to over simplify your comments here, in this response, but I'm
    a bit pushed for time, and I think it deserves a response.

    Two things really. First, how indeed do we (whoever that refers to) decided
    what constitutes 'good' and 'bad' cultural artefacts- whether that be good
    or bad journalism, or good or bad art? Very very difficult, although we
    constantly try and do this (I suspect some would put the religion/science
    debate here as well, but of course, IMHO, that argument's easier to

    The second, again touching on what you say, is what if such a question is
    irrelevant, since memetic (or other) characteristics of certain kinds of
    practices are more engaging and compelling than others. The problem may be
    that to try and adopt those apparently engaging aspects in those forms
    losing out, may undermine their initial aims, or simply not work in that
    context. For example, glossy, sound-bite news programmes, styled like
    game-shows may (or may not) attract audiences, but do they undermine the
    purposes of news. (The Bill Hicks joke comes to mind- about how one day
    adverts might, for example, feature a naked woman with two fingers between
    her legs, with the caption 'Drink Coke'- some might say we've more or less
    got that already....).

    Anyway the central concern is about the changing of debate due to the
    presentational changes in media representation of those issues. Very
    generally speaking, most commentators in journalism studies and political
    communication regard trends as negative. But there are exceptions to this
    viewpoint, although the burden of proof lies with them really.


    > ----------
    > From: Kenneth Van Oost
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Thursday, April 26, 2001 4:38 pm
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    > Hi Vincent,
    > You wrote,
    > > On the other hand this issue of public interest versus what the public
    > are
    > > interested in is a problematic distinction for me. If one sees these as
    > > contradictory, then what is the solution? Left to their own volition,
    > the
    > > public tends to avoid serious issues and politics and what not, and
    > favours
    > > escapism and entertainment (in very general terms of media use that is).
    > You can 't blaim the public for that, and on the other hand this is very
    > interesting stuff from a memetic point of view.
    > What kind of memes are the cause to favour entertainment and vulgar
    > escapism !? Who are we to say that they doesn 't must do that !!
    > IMO, and I stick to this, the public is not interested in politics and
    > serious matters just up to the point that those begin to intervene with
    > their ordinary common lives.
    > If you for example restrict the speed limit for cars for the sake of
    > security
    > and for the sake of public safety, many will argue that their freedom is
    > thrown into the balance by this, that kind of stuff.
    > These contradictions are a very interesting area to exlore memetically
    > that is...
    > > So, the only way to get people to engage with their responsibilities as
    > > citizens (i.e. to be interested in politics etc.) is to coerce them or
    > > "educate' them in some way.
    > << yes, but is it necessary !? You say it yourself, this is very
    > ineffective
    > and unproductive ! So, in a way why bother at all !?
    > >From a political point of view it would be appropiate of course to learn
    > the people to which extent they can show responsibility.
    > But is that the only reason !? Just to keep a nation political/ social/
    > cultural
    > on its feet !? I wonder and on the other hand I am a little bit worried.
    > If the public is not interested in those serious and political issues, why
    > as
    > a fact would those people who were engaged in those matters give any
    > notion of responsibility towards the public !?
    > >From out some dark sense of solidarity and compassion !? Oh, come on!!
    > Would there be in the end any profit if you ' educate ' people to show
    > responsibility !? I think not !
    > Not in the simple way of education. IMO, you gonna have to do more than
    > that, and than again, ethical crisisses come to mind! Memetic engineering,
    > ok but again... ethics !!
    > Look, somehow there is a difference between serious matters and just
    > playing stupid_ what is the difference between Shakespeare and West
    > Side Story !?
    > For what we puke on the former and where is the attraction in the latter
    > !?
    > And for other people just the other way round !?
    > The question can be asked, what is so attractive in fooling around and
    > what makes serious matters so unattractive, if they are not in some way
    > genetical/ memetical determined !? We are bound to what we are...
    > And than again,what would be the reason of nature by just letting people
    > having fun, to let them watch silly soaps and to let them participate in
    > dull
    > TV- shows and stupid games shows !?
    > All comes down to memes and their ways by which they do exist and
    > in which ways they want to propagate themselves.
    > But,this seems to provoke a very important question_ where did memes
    > go wrong !?
    > Or would it be easier to propagate along lines of silliness/ vulgarity and
    > voyeurism !? I suppose it is, but where is than the contradiction coming
    > from !? Why not staying at playing stupid !?
    > Or is it just that where serious matters come to intervene with those
    > memes
    > of pleasure and stupidity that others memeplexes come to their rescue !?
    > Well, when this is the case, than I suspect that the quality of the
    > Ideosphere
    > is diminishing. Oh, the diversity and what kind will have increased and
    > probably that will make the system ' better ', but than again, not in the
    > way I see it though !!
    > I don 't see the distinction; the contradiction as such as problematic,
    > but
    > rather the fact that serious matters are getting dispelled from the public
    > arena.
    > Tomorrow's World needs a competition to attract viewers, to get an
    > audience ! Now, I ask you !
    > Is that the way by which the media, or science for that matter is supposed
    > to work !? I ask you again !
    > > Similar arguments could be made about TV talk shows like Jerry Springer-
    > > exploitation of marginal groups for audience voyeurism, or vibrant forum
    > for
    > > such groups to express their concerns in ways familiar to them and
    > > audiences?
    > << yes, I agree, and than again, why raising this as the standard !?
    > Or is this just the way by which memes propagate !?
    > If this is so, well than I have serious questions about the status of mind
    > of
    > many who I see around me though !!
    > In a sense, there is no other way left by which those groups can express
    > their concerns, there is no ' intellectual ' forum where scientists,
    > experts,..
    > can express their expertise. And if there is one, is it very quickly
    > outdated
    > because 1) there is no audience for it , 2) it looses its importance be-
    > cause it needs a competition, or advertising to get it going and 3) most
    > of the people who is watching, by accident, don 't understand it...
    > But, that is the people 's prerogative...
    > Best,
    > Kenneth
    > ( I am, because we are) left out in the dark
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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    > see:

    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)

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