Words and memes

From: Dace (edace@earthlink.net)
Date: Fri Feb 01 2002 - 21:02:11 GMT

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    From: "Dace" <edace@earthlink.net>
    To: <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
    Subject: Words and memes
    Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2002 13:02:11 -0800
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    Joe Dees,

    > >> >> >"There is bacon in the fridge" is not a meme. It's simple
    > >> >> >information. The meme would be "bacon is evil" or "bacon is
    > >> >> >fattening" or "bacon is good." That sort of thing.
    > >> >> >
    > >> >> That bacon would be evil to two of the people for different
    > >> >reasons, and good to a third, because of their differing cognitive
    > >> >contexts [...] qualifies it as a meme (same for fridge).
    > >> >>>>
    > >> >
    > >> >Memes promote the autonomy of culture over our conscious minds.
    > >> >When we make simple observations of the world around us, we're
    > >> >functioning intentionally, using words entirely for our conscious
    > >> >purposes. That culture uses us doesn't mean we don't use it too.
    > >> >This is the flipside of the basic argument of memetics, that our
    > >> >intentional use of culture doesn't mean it's not turning around and
    > >> >working us as well.
    > >> >
    > >> That relates to my contention not one whit.
    > >
    > >When we say, "There's bacon in the fridge," we're using words. When
    > >we say, "Bacon is evil," the words are using us. Only then are they
    > >memetic. Words are not identical to memes (any more than to ink on
    > >paper.)
    > >
    > If I say to someone else that the bacon's in the fridge, and they tell a third person, then meaningful information has been replicated, a necessary and sufficient condition for memetic propagation to be said to have taken place. It would also result in the modification of behavior; the third person would look for the bacon in the fridge rather than in the freezer.

    To be replicated is necessary but insufficient to qualify as memetic. Memes are not passively replicated but actively self-replicate. The mere repetition of words doesn't mean memetic propagation is occurring. Memes exploit our conscious interaction in order to replicate themselves from one mind to another. In order for this to occur, the words must involve some kind of interpretation ("bacon is evil") and not a mere statement of fact ("bacon is in the fridge"). If it's merely factual, the repetition of the statement can be accounted for according to normal, intentional use of language.


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