Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id QAA08734 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Mon, 8 Oct 2001 16:33:31 +0100 Message-ID: <2D1C159B783DD211808A006008062D3102A6D07E@inchna.stir.ac.uk> From: Vincent Campbell <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: RE: Memes inside brain Date: Mon, 8 Oct 2001 16:28:57 +0100 X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2650.21) Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
(I know, I know... but rules are meant to be broken).
Couldn't resist this one.
<This message is for me connected to a problem I have been thinking
> some time: cultural inscription seems to have moved from oral, to written
> and more recently to audio-visual forms: Irish literature was for example
> existence on moral-memory form before being written down. What has this
> evolution meant, caused or been caused by, from a memetic point of view? >
It strikes me that this transformation offers all sorts of new
possibilities. All three of fecundity, fidelity and longevity are enhanced
by using media other than oral record. The permanence of a message (if not
its interpretation) is undoubtedly improved through being recorded in some
form or other. Fidelity too is helped through mass media at any rate
(printing being more reliable for reproducing books than hand copying etc.).
And of course the mass media in particular offer tremendous potential for
fecundity, reaching lots of people, now including a virtual global audience.
It also is significant in a different sense. Oral traditions are
usually dominated by vertical transmission- key people hold the particular
knowledge (e.g. the tribe's ancestral stories), and pass it on selectively.
With media there's ever greater potential for rapid horizontal transmission.
A good example here would by the whole MP3 debate, where the dissemination
of music becomes something done by lots of people in lots of places, and
therefore more difficult to stop than simply taking Napster to court.
Of course one quite controversial view in terms of the causes of
this is that all these forms of media have been memetically driven as it
were. I believe it was Susan Blackmore who came in for a lot of stick on
this list for questioning the utility of fax machines, for example, or
rather the utility of fax machines to humans, as opposed to their utility
for memes. To give some good examples of the proliferation of media
technologies, I heard the other day that since their launch in 1999, some 37
million DVD players have been sold in the UK. That is a massive growth of a
new medium (video and CDs, in comparison grew very slowly). The UK
population is a little under 60 million or so. Another good example (this
one from the UN Human Development Report, various editions of which are
available online) is the stat that the number of radios per 1000 people in
the USA is around 2000. So, in the US there are roughly 2 radios for every
individual. (What's that in real numbers, about 430 million radios?).
For me the issue that's missed by many memeticists who touch on the
media, is the question of how mediated communication is different from
interpersonal communication. Observing behaviour on television is not the
same as observing a friend or family member, for instance, so what does that
difference do to questions of learning/imitation etc.? We know that
television, for example, is not a good medium for attempts at deliberate
instruction, but also that it can command a lot of attention from audiences
(50 million+ watching the last episode of Seinfeld etc.) so therefore can't
be inconsequential. So, I think something(s) is(are) different in the nature
of memetic transmission from medium to medium, that may be consequential for
memes' effectiveness. Although what those differences might be I don't
Paul's recent comments about risks of copycat hijackings is for me a
misnomer as I've said, but what we have seen already is that almost any
transportation oriented incident is being reported with the attacks in mind-
from the Indian plane hijack (what happened to that story, it went off the
news so quickly I missed the resolution of it), to the Greyhound bus attack,
the Swiss parliamentary gunman, and the Black Sea plane crash. Mass media
allow for, facilitate, or are responsible for (pick anyone of those levels)
relatively rapid framing, and agenda setting of debates, and this may be
where they are important for memes. For example, the very rapid blaming of
the US attacks on bin Laden meant that possible alternative culprits
(pro-Milosevic Serbs, Cubans, Iraqis etc. etc.) didn't get on the agenda.
One could compare that with the nail bomb attacks in the UK of a couple of
years ago (during the Kosovan war). They turned out to have been by a lone
fascist nutcase (sorry for the tautology in 'fascist nutcase'), but
reporting of the initial attacks offered literally dozens of possible
culprits (I remember this because we used it in teaching- one report in the
Guardian newspaper named about 7 or 8 different possible groups in the wake
of the first attack).
Vincent (definitely the last post today....)
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Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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