Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 15:45:45 EDT
Subject: facets of meme-talk
In a message dated 8/25/99 7:50:39 PM Central Daylight Time,
> <<You're still fixated on the competition between "internal" and
> "external" memes. Haven't you been listening? What we're looking at
> now is *both* concepts, as *complementary*! Of course, the mind has
> infinitely more potential in that situation, but doesn't mean that the
> meme can't also be on the rock.>>
> No one disagrees that information is present in artifacts. It's just not a
> meme. If you want to call it a G-meme that's fine with me. It seems a
> misleading to give it such a similar name when it doesn't have a similar
I am with Richard on this one. These are the distinctions that I see in
conversations about memetics 1) "L-memes", memes "in the head", the
conceptual structure of information, in terms of language, perceptual
reference, and metaphor. Perhaps these could be also thought as "cognitive
2) Behavioral memes - memes manifested in behavior. Focussing on the
phenomenon of imitation as set out by Blackmore. We could call these
"B-memes" (both for behaviorism and Blackmore)?
3) "G-memes" - memes encoded into the environment, in cultural artifacts.
Gatherer claims that this was Benzon's conception of memes, though I have
some doubts that this is what Bill was talking about (perhaps Bill can set us
straight?). As I understood Benzon, he was only suggesting that we tended to
concentrate the memotypical functions (selective *retention* - corresponding
to genotype) in cultural artifacts (this would correlate with Dennett's
discussions of how we "offload" into our environment), whereas as those
pheMotypical functions tended to be concentrated in those aspects of B-memes
In both selfish gene and selfish meme theories, for a complete replicator we
have to include both the memotype/genotype and the phenotype/pheMotype.
Dawkins genes are not just DNA anymore, and therefore memetics memes cannot
just be memotypes.
Considering that even memotypical functions *can* be carried out without the
necessity of artifacts, I would be loathe to say that the artifacts are memes
all by themselves in any substantial manner. The thing that remains
indispensable at this point is the human mind.
It is also of some interest to me that these various facets in which we talk
about memes correspond very well to preexisting divisions in the sciences --
cognitive psychology (L-memes), behaviorism (B-memes), and
anthropology/archeology (G-memes). These remain descriptive facets only.
Unless and until we can create an operating predictive model, I don't know
that these categories have as much to do with the ontology of memes
themselves, rather than the particular cultural forms of human sciences in
western civilization at the time of the conception of meme theory.
Until that happens, I think it conceptually unwise to leap to the
disembodiment of memes -- the so-called "G-memes." It certainly may provide
a "fossil record" for memes, and even perform some memotypical functions.
But while that aspect deserves memetic consideration, I think it is premature
and confusing to call those "memes" in their own right.
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