Re: Words and memes

From: Dace (
Date: Mon Feb 04 2002 - 20:16:06 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Words and memes
    Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 12:16:06 -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
    > >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.
    > >when it starts playing on its own-- and continues replaying long after
    > >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 consciousness.
    > >
    > >The key issue is whether the unit of culture is self-replicated or
    > >intentionally replicated by a conscious agent. Memes are active. Ideas
    > >are passive.
    > >
    > >Ted
    > I would be curious to see an example of a 'meme' and an example of an
    > 'idea' that will display the distinction you are trying to make.
    > Ray Recchia

    If we think of a tune as a musical idea, then the tune that gets "stuck in
    your head" is a nice example of an idea that turns memetic. The Internet
    began as an idea, hatched by the Defense Department's advanced research
    projects division, and then became a meme as it caught on. No one has to
    reflect anymore on what the Internet is and what its value is. We've long
    since reached the point at which this idea propagates unreflectively. It's
    on our minds whether we want it there or not.

    If "meme" is taken to be equivalent to "idea," then it becomes culturally
    universalized and ceases to have meaning. On the other hand, if "meme" is
    equated with "learned behavior," then it becomes biologically universalized
    and also ceases to have meaning. Any term that can be collapsed into
    another term is just an abstraction. It has no existence outside of the
    word we've made up for it.


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