When is a meme not a meme?

Dr I Price (PEWLEYFORT@compuserve.com)
Sat, 7 Jun 1997 12:34:47 -0400

Date: Sat, 7 Jun 1997 12:34:47 -0400
From: Dr I Price <PEWLEYFORT@compuserve.com>
Subject: When is a meme not a meme?
To: "INTERNET:memetics@mmu.ac.uk" <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>

I have just returned from a week away to find a whole ecosystem of topics=

which seem to have evolved from Nick Rose's original questions about
i-cuture and m- culture. To pick one passage as a reminder:

> 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.
-------------- end quote -----------------

Whilst agreeing completely that the distinction is important I wonder if =
confuses the emergent theory of memetics to insist that the meme is one o=

It seems to me that the essence of the meme is that it replicates, by
inducing structures of thinking, perceiving and behaving in its hosts;
structures that may equate with individual perceptual patterns or with
organisations and the shared patterns of thinking, being, language, and
behaviour which enable them to be organisations.

If this view of the meme is taken then some memes do not need to have an
'i=3Dexistence'. Examples might include the QWERTY keyboard meme, the
photcopier meme, the various variants on the alcohol meme [it always
interests me that 'alcohol' is apparently one of the few words in our
language traceable back to Sumerian roots - source Jared Diamond 1993].
Dawkins' tunes and fashions might also be considered as 'm-memes'.

Then there is a class of 'belief memes', and perhaps 'meaning memes' that=

are presumably stored as neuological structures in individual minds and
replicate through various belief and language based structures. A whole
belief memotype exists in a religion, or scientific paradigm, or economic=

system. Whole sets of meanings are created/ preserved/ replicated in
various linguistic structures. These are perhaps, to exapt Cloak's
suggestion 'i-memes'. They replicate through phemotypes which include
language, rituals, and various cultural artefacts. Most books are probabl=
better thought of as phemotype than memotype.

Hence where, for example, Hans suggests:

>I thus hold that in memetic theory memes can be phemotype, and also =

memotype (code and matter, genotype and phenotype)>

I suggest [and again I see Nick drew a similar conclusion in a later
message] we have to ask what is actually doing the replicating, or being
replicated. The confusion may then be reduced.

If Price
Active Personal Learning, Guildford UK


This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
see: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit