What's the meme?

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Jochen Buegler

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Jan 11, 2005, 6:15:08 PM1/11/05
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If i take an idea, like, let's say a melody. Then i can express this
idea in different ways. I can write it down with notes, i can play it
on guitar and several other instruments too. I can make a mide file
from it and let the computer play it. I can hum it. And so on.

Is the meme then the note-meme, guitar-meme, midi-meme or is the meme
that abstract idea which is in all of these?

Thus is a meme the means of transporting an idea or is it the idea
itself?

John Flynn

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Jan 11, 2005, 6:51:51 PM1/11/05
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Jochen Buegler wrote:

Welcome to memeology and the "Just What The Fuck Is A Meme Exactly?"
quandary!

I, personally, would love for the meme to be something like what Aunger
has proposed (I've gone over the idea many many times before... do a
search through whichever archives you currently favour). But I think
that, despite all the good intentions I can muster, such an idea for a
physical existence of the meme is idealistic beyond all belief.

The major alternative is: the meme is the information.
This, I guess, is easier to grasp and makes talking about memes a whole
heap easier, but I feel it's simplifying things too far.

I've got my own embryonic idea (which is slowly building into a decent
hypothesis as I go looking for data to support it), but it's waaaaaaay
too early to go into details just now. I'm more interested in the origins
of language and human culture, and it might be that my idea will mean
ditching the idea of a meme entirely in favour of retaining a workable
hypothesis on language/culture origins, but then ... it might not; it's
early days yet.

Anyway, how would *you* answer your question?

--
johnF
"What I say in such discussions might not always be easy to grasp [...],
but what I say is *never* wrong."
-- Mark Wallace, <bn7rv0$u8k1k$1...@ID-51325.news.uni-berlin.de>

Nick Argall

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Jan 11, 2005, 11:04:17 PM1/11/05
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"Jochen Buegler" <sal...@gmx.net> wrote in message
news:1105485308.1...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

I would say that memes are what ideas are made of.

Let us say that I tell you a story, and you retell it with some differences.
Some of the memes that I gave you when I told you the story survived into
the next generation - others did not. This is the model that is consistent
with Dawkins's 'Selfish gene' theory of genetics.

Nick


Michael Laschober

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Jan 12, 2005, 3:55:59 AM1/12/05
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"Nick Argall" <nick....@aplaceof.removedotcom.info.com> wrote in message
news:41e49fb3$0$8698$afc3...@news.optusnet.com.au...

It is more practical to speak of a meme as being a "complete idea". If we
measure the distance between New York and London in inches, we'll never get
any work done. Dawkins "Selfish Gene" theory is not the "Selfish
Nucleotide" theory. With respect to Jochen's question, it's the melody that
infects the brain, not the individual notes - not even the correct sequence
of individual notes. It's the music - the living, complete idea - that
infects.


mWarrior

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Jan 12, 2005, 12:43:19 PM1/12/05
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John Flynn wrote:

>
> I've got my own embryonic idea (which is slowly building into a decent
> hypothesis as I go looking for data to support it), but it's waaaaaaay
> too early to go into details just now. I'm more interested in the origins
> of language and human culture, and it might be that my idea will mean
> ditching the idea of a meme entirely in favour of retaining a workable
> hypothesis on language/culture origins, but then ... it might not; it's
> early days yet.
>

What else is new? everyone wants to ditch the idea of a meme. Even
Dawkins at times seems to regard it more of a neat idea the a legitmate
theory.

John Flynn

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Jan 14, 2005, 2:39:58 PM1/14/05
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mWarrior wrote:

This is not a religion, you know! It is quite acceptable, and even
obligatory at times, to abandon an idea that has a lack of proof or
too much evidence against it, no matter how dearly you love the idea.

--
johnF
"The verb 'to flynn' means saving up people's choicest bloopers, and then
quoting them back years later when the blooperist had long hoped they'd
have been forgotten."
-- Robin Bignall, APIHNA, 4 Dec 2004

Nick Argall

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Jan 16, 2005, 8:55:03 PM1/16/05
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"Michael Laschober" <academ...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:zC5Fd.4884$pZ4....@newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net...

Good point. Now all that needs to be done is to define the 'start' and
'end' points of an idea.

Nick


Michael Laschober

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Jan 17, 2005, 1:54:49 AM1/17/05
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"Nick Argall" <nick....@aplaceof.removedotcom.info.com> wrote in message
news:41eb18e4$0$2869$afc3...@news.optusnet.com.au...

>> >
>> > I would say that memes are what ideas are made of.
>> >
>> > Let us say that I tell you a story, and you retell it with some
>> > differences.
>> > Some of the memes that I gave you when I told you the story survived
> into
>> > the next generation - others did not. This is the model that is
>> > consistent
>> > with Dawkins's 'Selfish gene' theory of genetics.


It is more practical to speak of a meme as being a "complete idea".

Dawkins "Selfish Gene" theory is not the "Selfish Nucleotide" theory.

With respect to Jochen's question, it's the melody that infects the brain,
not the individual notes - not even the correct sequence of individual
notes.
It's the music - the living, complete idea - that infects.
>
> Good point. Now all that needs to be done is to define the 'start' and
> 'end' points of an idea.
>

Why? A few weeks ago I accidentally stepped on a Christmas bulb at
somebody's house. Did I have to find every shard of glass before knowing
what I had done?
Ideas can usually be expressed in a few words. What utility is achieved in
trying to find the beginning and end? What utility is achieved in trying to
find every shard?

At best, a "meme" cannot be more than a loose concept. Insisting on more is
destructively academic. It is best to define a "meme" in a USEFUL way. The
"virus" model excited everybody - it caught people's imagination. It led to
many books and endless discussion. But in trying to quantify a meme with a
microscope and scalpel, the meme becomes less and less tangible. It's been
29 years since the Dawkins book - it should be evident by now that
specificity is counterproductive.


John Flynn

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Jan 17, 2005, 5:10:47 PM1/17/05
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Michael Laschober wrote:

> The "virus" model excited everybody - it caught people's imagination.
> It led to many books and endless discussion.

Useful discussion, though? I'm sceptical.

> But in trying to quantify a meme with a microscope and scalpel, the
> meme becomes less and less tangible. It's been 29 years since the
> Dawkins book - it should be evident by now that specificity is
> counterproductive.

Or not being specific enough!

Nick Argall

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Jan 19, 2005, 12:43:10 AM1/19/05
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"Michael Laschober" <academ...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:ZiJGd.8817$pZ4....@newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net...

>
> "Nick Argall" <nick....@aplaceof.removedotcom.info.com> wrote in
message
> news:41eb18e4$0$2869$afc3...@news.optusnet.com.au...

> Why? A few weeks ago I accidentally stepped on a Christmas bulb at
> somebody's house. Did I have to find every shard of glass before knowing
> what I had done?
> Ideas can usually be expressed in a few words. What utility is achieved
in
> trying to find the beginning and end? What utility is achieved in trying
to
> find every shard?

Let us suppose that an idea has a number of parts, and call those parts
'memes' in a similar way that the observable phenomenon of 'cat' has parts
that cannot be observed directly (by most of us) that are called 'genes'.

These non-observable parts produce observable phenomena such as Mendelian
inheritance. If we were to assume that ideas have parts analogous to genes,
one might expect an equivalent for Mendelian inheritance as well. This
supposition can be tested through experimentation or observation.

There is a difference between saying 'there are many shards of glass' and
attempting to isolate the shards themselves.

> At best, a "meme" cannot be more than a loose concept. Insisting on more
is
> destructively academic.

This depends on how one defines 'loose'.

> It is best to define a "meme" in a USEFUL way.

Yes. Certainly, the selection criterion 'most useful' tends to favour the
ideas that are the most useful. I like useful things.

> The
> "virus" model excited everybody - it caught people's imagination. It led
to
> many books and endless discussion. But in trying to quantify a meme with
a
> microscope and scalpel, the meme becomes less and less tangible. It's
been
> 29 years since the Dawkins book - it should be evident by now that
> specificity is counterproductive.

And yet vagueness is counterproductive, as are ongoing semantic debates that
produce no useful output. Therefore, there is no utility in arguing over
the definition of meme. However, there is utility in having a definition of
meme, because this becomes a basis for the generation of testable hypotheses
about observable phenomena.

Nick


Michael Laschober

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Jan 19, 2005, 10:14:26 AM1/19/05
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"Nick Argall" <nick....@aplaceof.removedotcom.info.com> wrote in message
news:41edf158$0$4095$afc3...@news.optusnet.com.au...

>
> Let us suppose that an idea has a number of parts, and call those parts
> 'memes' in a similar way that the observable phenomenon of 'cat' has parts
> that cannot be observed directly (by most of us) that are called 'genes'.
>
> These non-observable parts produce observable phenomena such as Mendelian
> inheritance. If we were to assume that ideas have parts analogous to
> genes,
> one might expect an equivalent for Mendelian inheritance as well. This
> supposition can be tested through experimentation or observation.

Well, Nick, if defining a meme as a "subunit of an idea" is such a
productive path, if it is such a portal to a wonderful world of tests and
experiments, then perhaps you can name a single such test. After all, it's
not like we have to go to a different planet to find these ideas - we're
swimming in them. It's not like we have to get a decree from Congress to
adopt your proposed definition - just snap your fingers and your definition
is law. And what are the results? Where is this fertile land, this
plethora of understanding that your definition leads us?

That is why I say that the "complete idea" or the "virus" model of a meme is
more productive. It has already spread like wildfire throughout the world.
Although your "microscope and scalpel" approach has proven its utility in
your "cat gene" example, it has proven its uselessness with respect to
memes. Disecting an abstraction does not yield tangible results.


g@g.g

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Jan 21, 2005, 11:25:24 AM1/21/05
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There was a time when I thought abstractions could be a separate thing unto
themselves. Then I read
David Deutsch's paper "Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the
universal quantum computer" which spells
out quite neatly that one cannot separate a computational process from some
sort of physical manifestation. There must be an
underlying machinery or the computational process doesn't happen. Ditto for
thought?

I would guess that each expression of your melody would count as one "copy"
of the meme. the midi file is not exactly duplicating
a recording of you humming it, no two playings on a guitar are going to be
exactly bit-for-bit identical so each playing would
seem to be a unique instantiation of the meme, just as each person is a
unique instantiation of the human genome. No one person
carries the entire set of variations within the genome and yet we're all
(relatively) human.

I'm not an expert, I just play one in real life. Hopefully my opinion is
helpful.
-Guy :-)E

Nick Argall

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Jan 26, 2005, 1:29:19 AM1/26/05
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"Michael Laschober" <academ...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:mPuHd.147$YD5...@newsread3.news.pas.earthlink.net...

>
> "Nick Argall" <nick....@aplaceof.removedotcom.info.com> wrote in
message
> news:41edf158$0$4095$afc3...@news.optusnet.com.au...
> >
> > Let us suppose that an idea has a number of parts, and call those parts
> > 'memes' in a similar way that the observable phenomenon of 'cat' has
parts
> > that cannot be observed directly (by most of us) that are called
'genes'.
> >
> > These non-observable parts produce observable phenomena such as
Mendelian
> > inheritance. If we were to assume that ideas have parts analogous to
> > genes,
> > one might expect an equivalent for Mendelian inheritance as well. This
> > supposition can be tested through experimentation or observation.
>
> Well, Nick, if defining a meme as a "subunit of an idea" is such a
> productive path, if it is such a portal to a wonderful world of tests and
> experiments, then perhaps you can name a single such test. After all,
it's
> not like we have to go to a different planet to find these ideas - we're
> swimming in them. It's not like we have to get a decree from Congress to
> adopt your proposed definition - just snap your fingers and your
definition
> is law. And what are the results? Where is this fertile land, this
> plethora of understanding that your definition leads us?

You might like to have a look at some of my early posts on the subject of
possible memetic survival mechanisms. (Sexual vs violent reproduction, for
instance.)

Perhaps it's not the promised land, but rather one that is potentially
fertile.

> That is why I say that the "complete idea" or the "virus" model of a meme
is
> more productive. It has already spread like wildfire throughout the
world.
> Although your "microscope and scalpel" approach has proven its utility in
> your "cat gene" example, it has proven its uselessness with respect to
> memes. Disecting an abstraction does not yield tangible results.

If you say so.

Nick


Michael Laschober

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Jan 26, 2005, 9:28:26 AM1/26/05
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"Nick Argall" <nick....@aplaceof.removedotcom.info.com> wrote in message
news:41f736a1$0$2869$afc3...@news.optusnet.com.au...


>> Although your "microscope and scalpel" approach has proven its utility in
>> your "cat gene" example, it has proven its uselessness with respect to
>> memes. Disecting an abstraction does not yield tangible results.
>
> If you say so.
>

No, I don't say so. The barren wasteland says so.


Nick Argall

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Jan 27, 2005, 8:37:15 AM1/27/05
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"Michael Laschober" <academ...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:eONJd.6377$r27....@newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net...

Pray tell, what tangible results have the people that disagree with me
produced?

Nick


Bellerophon

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Feb 24, 2018, 8:22:41 PM2/24/18
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In article <1105485308.1...@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com>,
Jochen Buegler <sal...@gmx.net> wrote:

> Thus is a meme the means of transporting an idea or is it the idea
> itself?

I spent way too much time on an old listserv from the Church of the
Virus, and back then came to the thought, which developed from my
attempts to understand what an 'artifact' is, that it is _performance_
itself that is the meme. Thus, memetic action. Not the ideas, except
that they may be used within the performance, and I don't mean
performance like a whole opera, I mean it quite simply- doing
something. (Indeed, a formative performance could be an involuntary
action, so ideas, while nice, ain't necessary.) For memes to continue
(i.e. for many people to perform the same action) we often need
artifacts produced by these performances, tangible props or directions-
objects or language- thus memetic constructs, upon which we can base
and develop culture, which at basis is the state of a repeated
performance or group of performances (the aptly named meme-plex).

This helped to clarify for me the truly transitory nature of memes,
(memory is really iffy), as well as their ability to mutate rapidly
(perfect duplication is impossible), and also to explain how cultural
artifacts can still exist but have no use anymore, or their use is
lost, visit any museum..., at least the original, perhaps magickal,
use.

To bring in another thread here, truth (and non-truth) are mostly
irrelevant to memetics, although the grand artifacts collectively
plexed as 'science' will insist upon its own performance of facts.

Humans are truly memetic animals, in that we cannot exist without
culture, we are too divorced from instinct.

--
Emergency cancellation, Archimedes.
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