That makes sense. Atran's critique is interesting, certainly the idea behind it rests entirely on how well the genetics analogy holds - and it doesn't too far, particularly in fidelity of transmission. I've never taken the analogy literally, but there's something to be said for the differences in "horizontal" and "vertical" transmission that makes it less applicable.
I can see why it's attractive as an explanation, particularly to the likes of Dawkins with an evolutionary background. But once you've mashed it up with certain caveats, "natural selection" probably isn't exactly the best way of looking at it.
So I'm curious, since i've not paid much attention to memes other than Dawkins book. Is the argument that humans have done this for all of written history? or is it only a modern thing when people have a more instant access to ideas and spreading them around the world.
From what I can tell, that you can't really distinguish that is part of the problem - otherwise wouldn't you not conclude that animals would somehow be susceptible to memetics? The only thing where it seems to have any concrete definition is as "internet meme".
Like I said, I've always been dubious and never really bought the idea - but equally have not read more than the most sketchy outlines or comments. It's an interesting metaphore, yes... it's just the way I hear people throwing it about "I will not subcum to your meme". "I'm over that meme now", seems almost a way for them (generally internet geeks and nerds like the folks on wiki or RW) to put some (any) idea into a classification as "popular idea everyone is buying into". Ie., in their parlance, right or wrong, "memes" are things you don't think about, you just have or do not have.
A meme is an idea. why did it have to become something *more* than a idea? I guess that's my problem.
Today I am talking about the "purpleization of downtown". it's an idea. when, why, or how does it become a "meme"?
Depends on who you want to market your pop science book to.
Will it sell more if it's a "meme" and not just an "idea"?
I would put my money on "yes," because "ideas" are old, boring, and stuffy. "Memes" are new, fashionable, and better yet, they are ScienceTM!
I think there is a study somewhere that shows books sell better if they seem to make up a new word to describe something. I might be pulling it out of my arse, but I'm sure I recall something along those lines...
"Truthoficty and audiosim: understanding the importance of being truth when you speak" (it sounds right, therefore it is).
Isn't the scientific term for that truthiness?
you said "new words" truthiness was coined already. i needed Truthoficity! It's the validity of the truth of truthiness!
Yeah, like I said, I've seen some interesting things done with things like "meme maps," but at that point the "meme" is so far from its original intention that it doesn't really much resemble the original analogy at all and its purpose becomes more descriptive than explanatory ("meme of the gaps," if you will). As for memetics as a "science," add that to the scrapheap of cultural evolutionary history.
To me "meme maps" and memeplexes were always the most intriguing prospect. Like imagining putting together a jigsaw to make your own image, but only certain pieces can actually slot together with each other well, so some combinations (memeplexes) are more stable than others. I found in interesting that some ideas would just drag others for the ride because they were more compatible than others. But still, defining the individual units makes that a little difficult so it ends up a bit too fuzzy.
This is something that the idea of "memes" makes it easier to think about in a certain way, which is why I don't think they're ipso facto wrong to use. A meme could be a little "factoid" and the memeplex what I would call a "narrative." For example, take 9/11 trutherism. Memes might include "fire can't melt steel," "what about Building 7?" etc. The memeplex, or narrative, would be 9/11 trutherism, and the "meta-memeplex" or "meta-narrative" would be a conspiratorial government. Research on crank magnetism (not a term of art in psych, but I want to make it one) shows that belief in one conspiracy theory, e.g., 9/11 trutherism, also correlates with higher belief in other conspiracy theories such as the moon landing hoax. So this demonstrates that the concept isn't entirely wrong.
However, as memes are something of a recycling of "sign," memeplexes are something of a simplified version of psychological schema. Frederic Bartlett used this idea to study memory and showed that facts that don't fit the schema are rewritten to conform to the schema or thrown out. "Memeplex" could be conceived as something of a generalized form of this.
Crank magnetism would be like the type species for this sort of thing!
Not quite -- crank magnetism would be a process or mechanism. Which reminds me of another reason I don't like this biological analogy. The genesis of memetics was essentially Dawkins' attempt to apply the "selfish gene" perspective to culture and ideas. While that metaphor is useful in genetics, I don't think it is at all in anthropology/psychology/sociology. In a way, it's more accurate to say people use memes rather than vice-versa -- going back to conspiracy theories, while they are often maladaptive in certain ways, they also serve purposes such as justifying or rationalizing failure or lending coherence to randomness which creates psychological comfort (note Goertzel and others find conspiracy theories to be more popular among disaffected people). The idea that the meme is using the person to spread itself doesn't make much sense in many of the contexts its applied. I think this comes up in the memetics episode of Rationally Speaking and it's part of Atran's critique in terms of religion (his paper on memetics is recycled as a chapter in In Gods We Trust), which is that the memetics view tends to look at the direct cost to the "host" of "carrying" a meme, but overlook indirect benefits to the host. And, going back to fidelity, it also tends to overlook the fact that the form of something is often copied rather than the substance, or cases where, as Marshall McLuhan famously said, "the medium is the message."
I do like the "meme" as a sort of generic placeholder variable for a basic idea or simple "imitatable"/"copyable" action that can be used as part of a model, more or less like you did with the essay on language, so I'm probably preaching to the choir here. Though when you get to that point, the meme is mostly shorn of all the pseudo-evolutionary technobabble surrounding it and its explanatory value as a theoretical framework. You could say I like memes but not memetics.
Or, shorter version of this entire spiel, memes are a kind of pseudo-biological reinvention of A.O. Lovejoy's "unit ideas."
Why the fuck are they not just "popular ideas". why must they be "special" kinds of "units" of ideas. or "memes" of ideas.
One of the things I actually like about memes is that they encompass both ideas and actions (sign does this as well, though often in subtly different ways). The notion of "idea" itself almost seems spiritual to me, like some kind of disembodied essence. One of the themes of postmodernism (the parts that weren't absolute gibberish, anyway) was the connection between ideas and actions, especially Foucault's concept of "power/knowledge." Many discoveries in psychology also demonstrate this, again, as in rationalization, in which ideas are not thought up for their intrinsic value but "generated" as a social tool to deal with some predicament.
I'm sure half the art of academia is creating new labels to hide what you mean from the Great Unwashed.
Does the other half involve saying "Ignore that man behind the curtain!"?
It's occurred to me that the link in my last post needs some context. The ABA is the American Bar Association, which has recently come under fire for marketing law degrees as the most employable money-making degree on earth, when in fact most law graduates are living in cardboard boxes lined with letters demanding interest payments on their $120,000 student loan debt. (I may have exaggerated a bit...)
by the way, did i tell you that last night I had a dream about the most amazing thing ever. it was sorta roundish, but there were these support beams in the middle. and teh whole point of it was to let it roll, so you could put something on it, and it too would roll.
do you know what kind of money i can make, if only i can get someone to patent that? I think i shall name it circular rollinging thingy.