Re: i-culture and m-culture

Hans-Cees Speel (
Tue, 3 Jun 1997 13:19:52 MET

From: Hans-Cees Speel <>
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997 13:19:52 MET
Subject: Re: 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.

tell us more about it!

> 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
> m-culture:
> 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.

In my new paper I wrote this about it:

The distinction between replicators and interactors is connected to the
division of code and matter (Pattee, 1977). Code can be replicated, but more
importantly, also interpretated. The interpretation takes place by means of
an interpretation system, and yields matter. The difference between matter and
code is that code is in a rate-independend dynamical mode, while matter is in
a rate-dependent dynamical mode. When a structural entitie crosses this
matter-code barrier it is 'transduced' (Pattee, 1977). In biology the
interpretation system is the cell mechanism, that translates (while also
tranducing) specific parts of DNA at a certain time to enzymes. This
theoretical theme is in the end also related to the genotype-phenotype
distinction of course, since genotype is code, and phenotype is matter. Code
has no meaning separated from a translation system. Pattee describes for
instance that the cell gives DNA its meaning.
In memetics we can also discern translations and transductions. These always
take place in the brain. However, we do not have an accepted theory of how
this takes place in the brain. This is why examples are hard to give. This
difficulty of working without an accepted transduction theory also means that
both replicators and interactors are referred to as memes. While this may be
incorrect, we won't solve this here, because we do not know if a separation
can be made between code and matter in the brain.
However, it is clear that memes in policy plans can be translated in two kinds
of steps by humans. First a meaning is attached to a meme (like in the
weaseling described below), and second this meaning can be one of the factors
that causes specific behavior of humans. In organizational and policy theories
the relevant concept that describes this is implementation. Some policies,
such as laws, have a well organized interpretation systems, such as courts.
Other policies are never transduced to actions at all.


I thus hold that in memetic theory memes can be phemotype, and also
memotype (code and matter, genotype and phenotype)

You might also want to read Williamson 1992 (natural selection) for
the difference between code and non-code.

> 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.

excatly, the wuestrion is if we can keep up this distinction at all.
We have not done so in the past.

> 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.

I think that he might be right in the brain, where memes can be code,
but also mattter. Although I am not a neuroscientist.

> 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?

Yes and no. It is neo-lamarckian becuase it does not involve genes,
as the replicators relevant for Lamarck's examples.

It can be lamarckian for memes (thus neo-L), but does not have to be.

> Is this a fatal problem for the theory of cultural change using
> an evolutionary model?

That is Goulds view, although I think he holds it because he hates
Dawkins. I do not think it makes it less evolutionary. Just
different. Memes can still struggle, or the hosts of memes, and this
can lead to evolution by selelection. Read my new paper, or Wilkins
thesis on the internet for instance.
If you hold the view that lamarcian memetic evolutio is not evolution
becuase it is lamarcian, you confuse neoL with L.

> 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.

yes, why not?


Theories come and go, the frog stays [F. Jacob]
Hans-Cees Speel
Managing Editor "Journal of Memetics Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission"

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|School of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and management
|Technical University Delft, Jaffalaan 5 2600 GA Delft PO Box 5015 The Netherlands
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