Re: Words and memes

From: Dace (
Date: Sun Feb 03 2002 - 18:46:09 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Words and memes
    Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002 10:46:09 -0800
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    From: John Croft

    > Thus Ted wrote
    > > >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.
    > and Keith replied
    > > Good way to put it. You can't call everything a
    > > meme or it becomes a useless word.
    > Again I would disagree with you both here. Everything
    > that is culturally duplicated and diseminated is a
    > meme. (Not just statements with interpretation - for
    > instance - a sung melody is a meme, a gesture (eg
    > shaking hands in greeting) is a meme, washing potatoes
    > in the sea before eating them is a meme. It is the
    > fact of duplication that makes it mimetic. If not
    > duplicated, but learned individually with every
    > generation, or if "instinctual" and passed genetically
    > then it is not a meme. "Fridges", "bacon" and putting
    > "bacon" into "fridges" are all mimentic, specific to
    > one culture, and all "seek" replication.

    Culture can be divided into intentional and memetic. While the "atoms of
    culture" are always taking on a life of their own-- far beyond the
    intentions of their creators-- we are continually regenerating culture from
    the foundation. Even if a particular tune is known to be "catchy," if I
    consciously decide to hum it, it's a function of intentional culture. Only
    when it starts playing on its own-- and continues replaying long after it's
    begun to annoy me-- does it become a function of memetic culture.

    I agree that it's important to distinguish between what is memetic and what
    is genetic. But it's also important to distinguish between what is memetic
    and what is intentional. In order for the term to be meaningful, "meme"
    must be delineated on both sides, from biology and from reflexive

    The key issue is whether the unit of culture is self-replicated or
    intentionally replicated by a conscious agent. Memes are active. Ideas are


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