let's count them

Bill Benzon (bbenzon@mindspring.com)
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 20:26:19 -0500

Message-Id: <199706110022.UAA02867@brickbat9.mindspring.com>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 20:26:19 -0500
To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
From: bbenzon@mindspring.com (Bill Benzon)
Subject: let's count them

Robin Wood says:

>While we are at it, the term memes applied to everything from books to
>words to slogans to fads to worldviews is not helpful- it does not
>make useful distinctions and leads to errors of generalisation and
>mechanistic thinking. May I suggest that we adopt a new vocabulary
>which makes meaningful distinctions and doesn't just lump everything
>into one big bucket?

While a part of me is sympathetic to this, another part of me is quite
content to put all this things in one bucket. Provided that we then come up
with meaningfull ways of "weigh" that bucket. I want to count memes. Or,
think of memes as countable units of cultural information. Then I want
ways of estimating the number of memes circulating within a community, or
flowing from one community to another, etc.

For example, a number of anthropologists have been developing scales of
cultural complexity. Those scales yield ordinal values, but not cardinal
values. Thus, if culture A has a complexity score of 20 and culture B has
a complexity score of 40, one can assert that culture B is more complex
than A, but it is not twice as complex. If we had a complexity scale which
had cardinal values, we could make the stronger assertion. Better yet, we
could take communities in a given region, estimate cultural complexity over
some period of time, and graph the results. What sorts of developmental
curves would we get?

There interesting thing about Dawkin's little exercise in the "new edition"
of "The Selfish Gene" is that the growth of citations for the papers he
tracked was exponential, while citations to other papers did not exhibit
exponential growth. What does that tell us about the underlying dynamics
of those two memetic streams?

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A bbenzon@mindspring.com
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA http://www.newsavanna.com/wlb/

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