Re: The real meme

Tim Rhodes (
Wed, 21 Jul 1999 14:09:18 -0700

From: "Tim Rhodes" <>
To: <>
Subject: Re: The real meme
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 14:09:18 -0700

Robin Faichney wrote:

>It seems to me that the main current contenders for the position of "the
>real meme" reveal (a) a failure to appreciate the relevance of encoding,
>and (b) where it is considered, an assumption that there is a real
>difference between clear and encoded forms. Just as so many insect
>species have very distinct larval and adult stages, being able to
>reproduce only in the latter, so memes have in-brain and in-behaviour
>stages, and can be transmitted only via behaviour (where that obviously
>includes speaking, writing, etc.). And just as both larva and adult
>insect carry the gene, so both brain and behaviour carry the meme.
>Neither brain nor behavioural encoding is the real meme, the clear form.
>The real meme is the abstraction that they have in common, that enables
>the repeating cycle of transformations. Of course, this degree of
>abstraction makes it very difficult to deal with, but is that a good
>reason to reject this view?


Yes, this is the same sort of thinking that led me to offer the "L-meme" and
"G-meme" distinctions a while back. Although my choice of terminology may
have been excessively cumbersome for some tastes, it was my simple intention
to show the "real meme" within the cycle of L- and G-memes without
discounting or encouraging the claims of either camp as to 'ownership' of
the term "meme".

(To my mind both Lynch and Gatherer are talking about memes -- just about
different aspects of the same beast. Which is why when one camp or the
other claims that they have the true "meme" and everyone else should come up
with their own terms for the same cultural replicators when they manifest
themselves in a different form, it strikes me as a bit comedic --in an
almost tragic sort of way.)

As you say, this level of abstraction is difficult, but it does allow us to
talk about the important points of transitions between these two states in a
way that may more accurately reflect what we already intuitively know about
the movement and propagation of memes.

And, BTW, I love that larva/adult insect analogy you came up with!

-Tim Rhodes

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