i-culture and m-culture

N Rose (NJ-ROSE@wpg.uwe.ac.uk)
Tue, 03 Jun 1997 11:40:34 +0000

Message-Id: <s3940556.032@wpg.uwe.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 1997 11:40:34 +0000
From: N Rose <NJ-ROSE@wpg.uwe.ac.uk>
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
Subject: i-culture and m-culture

First let me introduce myself to the group. My name's Nick Rose
and I'm a post-grad PhD student at the University of the West of
England; Psychology Dept. I am currently about one year into a
PhD research thesis entitled; Meme Theory: Is cultural evolution
more than a metaphor.

I wonder if anyone could help me with a problem I've been mulling
over for weeks now. I shall (for the sake of space) assume that
many of you have read the Cloak (1975) article in Human Ecology
(see memetics biblography). Cloak was perhaps one of the first
to suggest that cultural evolution might proceed through the
differential selection of, what he calls, 'cultural corpuscles'.

Cloak makes an interesting differentiation between i-culture and
i-culture: The interneuronal instruction; i.e. the instruction
in the brain for carrying out a behaviour.
m-culture: The 'phenotypic' expression of the i-culture; which
includes all the resultant behaviour, artifacts, etc.

It strikes me that much of the confusion surrounding the
distinction between a meme and its phenotypic effects is due to
Dawkins dropping the i-culture m-culture distinction. In the
Selfish Gene he gives examples of memes as 'tunes, clothes
fashions, ways of making pots, etc'. These examples appear
similar to Cloak's m-culture.
However, if memes are defined as instructions stored in the brain
for producing cultural behaviour - as Dawkins appears to favour
in the Extended Phenotype - then it seems that memes are a kind
of i-culture.

Dawkins explains his position in the Selfish Gene, by suggesting
that memes may exist in a state similar to the pre-biotic soup
(therefore lacking a 'phenotype' per se), but this, in my
opinion, loses the simplicity of Cloak's definitions and makes
any discussion of memeotypes and possible meme phenotypes
terribly hard to pin down.
It strikes me that perhaps Dawkins was concerned that if he stuck
to Cloak's definitions of i-culture and m-culture, then it would
be immediately apparent that cultural evolution was Lamarkian
(i.e. the heredity of aquired characteristics). Within
biological evolutionary theory there had been a long struggle to
overturn the Lamarkian model of heredity, which may have left
some sociobiologists prejudiced towards the possibility of
Lamarkian processes underlying memetics.

Some questions;
If you agree with the existence of memetic phenotypes (like
Cloak) then is cultural evolution inevitably a Lamarkian process?
Is this a fatal problem for the theory of cultural change using
an evolutionary model?

If we reject Cloak's m-culture, i-culture differentiation, and go
for the pre-biotic soup position; can we clearly define a meme
without slipping into the old problems about photocopiers and
books, etc.

Nick Rose

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