Re: Recursive def. of the meme

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 16:19:09 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Recursive def. of the meme
    Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 08:19:09 -0800
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    >Subject: Recursive def. of the meme
    >Date: Mon, 21 Jan 2002 23:02:44 -0500
    >For what it's worth, I propose this definition of the meme:
    >Recursive def. o/t meme:
    >An element of culture that can be replicated/transmitted.
    >In addition, it has a set of properties or features that
    >determine its uniqueness which, in turn, are memes too (by some
    >In other words: a meme can be expressed in other more primitive
    >This definition has the benefit that it explicitly recognizes the
    >that memes can be expressed in memes, which can be expressed in
    >memes etc...
    >New memes have to be expandable in known memes in order
    >to disseminate and communicate its existence over the population.
    >The process of recursion ends when the level of expressive memes
    >so primitive that further recursion is impossible (the
    >condition is then violated). This level may be called the atomic
    >of memes.
    >An idea can be expressed in phrases, metaphors, slogans,
    >single sentences, themes, theorems etc. which constitutes the
    >primitive level. In turn, phrases, metaphors and the like can be
    >in single words, the second primitive level. Words can be
    >expressed in letters
    >and marks. Further recursion is impossible as the sticks, bars
    >and circles
    >used to construct character do not uniquely belong to one
    >character. The single symbols therefore constitute the atomic
    >An invention such as the airplane consists of parts like wheels,
    >fuselage and cockpit which may constitutes the first primitive
    >Wings consist of flat and curved metal plates, fuel containers
    >and a
    >metallic framework to keep the construction together: the second
    >level. The metal plates may consist of several metallic layers,
    >anti-corrosive layers and nuts and bolts. All these elements can
    >expressed in more detail by giving the materials or chemicals
    >ways of fabrication, number of threads in bolts, etc. This level
    >description would be the atomic level (although recursion may go
    >this point from engineering into the realm of physics and
    >A complex behavior such as a fancy eating etiquette or royal
    >may be decomposed in several programs of bodily movements. Each
    >of these
    >programs may be expressed further into more primitive patterns of
    >behavior until the movements are too mundane and non-unique to
    >allow further
    >recursion. The atomic level has been reached then.
    >Comments, additions, wise-cracks? All are welcome...
    I like it. We might even try to order the memes which make up the artifact
    according to how they appeared on a timeline, based on the memes from which
    they evolved.

    The airplane wheel, for example came from wheels for land vehicles, which
    came from wheels for chariots, which came from moving things atop rolling
    logs, etc., etc.

    Elements of ettiquet, on the other hand, were developed and handed down as
    customary behavior in rich or royal families. Outsiders modeled their
    behavior to be acceptable to those they wanted to join. When royalty
    started using forks, soon everyone was using them. When one royal family
    visited another and were outshone by their hosts with some new practice, it
    soon became part of the scene for every royal household. Being able to take
    note of the artifacts and trace them historically provides a sense of
    perspective to the process of meme development and how culture as a whole


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