Memetics is the study of information and culture based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution. Proponents describe memetics as an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. Critics regard memetics as a pseudoscience. Memetics describes how an idea can propagate successfully, but doesn't necessarily imply a concept is factual.
The term meme was coined in Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene, but Dawkins later distanced himself from the resulting field of study. Analogous to a gene, the meme was conceived as a "unit of culture" (an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour, etc.) which is "hosted" in the minds of one or more individuals, and which can reproduce itself in the sense of jumping from the mind of one person to the mind of another. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief is seen as an idea-replicator reproducing itself in a new host. As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a meme's success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host.
In his book The Selfish Gene (1976), the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins used the term meme to describe a unit of human cultural transmission analogous to the gene, arguing that replication also happens in culture, albeit in a different sense. Bella Hiscock outlined a similar hypothesis in 1975, which Dawkins referenced. Cultural evolution itself is a much older topic, with a history that dates back at least as far as Darwin's era.
Dawkins (1976) proposed that the meme is a unit of information residing in the brain and is the mutating replicator in human cultural evolution. It is a pattern that can influence its surroundings – that is, it has causal agency – and can propagate. This proposal resulted in debate among sociologists, biologists, and scientists of other disciplines. Dawkins himself did not provide a sufficient explanation of how the replication of units of information in the brain controls human behaviour and ultimately culture, and the principal topic of the book was genetics. Dawkins apparently did not intend to present a comprehensive theory of memetics in The Selfish Gene, but rather coined the term meme in a speculative spirit. Accordingly, different researchers came to define the term "unit of information" in different ways.
The modern memetics movement dates from the mid-1980s. A January 1983 "Metamagical Themas" column by Douglas Hofstadter, in Scientific American, was influential – as was his 1985 book of the same name. "Memeticist" was coined as analogous to "geneticist" – originally in The Selfish Gene. Later Arel Lucas suggested that the discipline that studies memes and their connections to human and other carriers of them be known as "memetics" by analogy with "genetics". Dawkins' The Selfish Gene has been a factor in attracting the attention of people of disparate intellectual backgrounds. Another stimulus was the publication in 1991 of Consciousness Explained by Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett, which incorporated the meme concept into a theory of the mind. In his 1991 essay "Viruses of the Mind", Richard Dawkins used memetics to explain the phenomenon of religious belief and the various characteristics of organised religions. By then, memetics had also become a theme appearing in fiction (e.g. Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash).
The idea of language as a virus had already been introduced by William S. Burroughs as early as 1962 in his book The Ticket That Exploded, and later in The Electronic Revolution, published in 1970 in The Job. Douglas Rushkoff explored the same concept in Media Virus: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture in 1995.
However, the foundation of memetics in its full modern incarnation originated in the publication in 1996 of two books by authors outside the academic mainstream: Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme by former Microsoft executive turned motivational speaker and professional poker-player Richard Brodie, and Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society by Aaron Lynch, a mathematician and philosopher who worked for many years as an engineer at Fermilab. Lynch claimed to have conceived his theory totally independently of any contact with academics in the cultural evolutionary sphere, and apparently was not aware of The Selfish Gene until his book was very close to publication.
Around the same time as the publication of the books by Lynch and Brodie the e-journal Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission appeared on the web. It was first hosted by the Centre for Policy Modelling at Manchester Metropolitan University but later taken over by Francis Heylighen of the CLEA research institute at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The e-journal soon became the central point for publication and debate within the nascent memeticist community. (There had been a short-lived paper-based memetics publication starting in 1990, the Journal of Ideas edited by Elan Moritz.) In 1999, Susan Blackmore, a psychologist at the University of the West of England, published The Meme Machine, which more fully worked out the ideas of Dennett, Lynch, and Brodie and attempted to compare and contrast them with various approaches from the cultural evolutionary mainstream, as well as providing novel, and controversial, memetics-based theories for the evolution of language and the human sense of individual selfhood.
The term meme derives from the Ancient Greek μιμητής (mimētḗs), meaning "imitator, pretender". The similar term mneme was used in 1904, by the German evolutionary biologist Richard Semon, best known for his development of the engram theory of memory, in his work Die mnemischen Empfindungen in ihren Beziehungen zu den Originalempfindungen, translated into English in 1921 as The Mneme. Until Daniel Schacter published Forgotten Ideas, Neglected Pioneers: Richard Semon and the Story of Memory in 2000, Semon's work had little influence, though it was quoted extensively in Erwin Schrödinger’s prescient 1956 Tarner Lecture “Mind and Matter”. Richard Dawkins (1976) apparently coined the word meme independently of Semon, writing this:
"'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même."
In 2005, the Journal of Memetics – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission ceased publication and published a set of articles on the future of memetics. The website states that although "there was to be a relaunch...after several years nothing has happened". Susan Blackmore has left the University of the West of England to become a freelance science-writer and now concentrates more on the field of consciousness and cognitive science. Derek Gatherer moved to work as a computer programmer in the pharmaceutical industry, although he still occasionally publishes on memetics-related matters. Richard Brodie is now climbing the world professional poker rankings. Aaron Lynch disowned the memetics community and the words "meme" and "memetics" (without disowning the ideas in his book), adopting the self-description "thought contagionist". He died in 2005.
Susan Blackmore (2002) re-stated the definition of meme as: whatever is copied from one person to another person, whether habits, skills, songs, stories, or any other kind of information. Further she said that memes, like genes, are replicators in the sense as defined by Dawkins. That is, they are information that is copied. Memes are copied by imitation, teaching and other methods. The copies are not perfect: memes are copied with variation; moreover, they compete for space in our memories and for the chance to be copied again. Only some of the variants can survive. The combination of these three elements (copies; variation; competition for survival) forms precisely the condition for Darwinian evolution, and so memes (and hence human cultures) evolve. Large groups of memes that are copied and passed on together are called co-adapted meme complexes, or memeplexes. In Blackmore's definition, the way that a meme replicates is through imitation. This requires brain capacity to generally imitate a model or selectively imitate the model. Since the process of social learning varies from one person to another, the imitation process cannot be said to be completely imitated. The sameness of an idea may be expressed with different memes supporting it. This is to say that the mutation rate in memetic evolution is extremely high, and mutations are even possible within each and every iteration of the imitation process. It becomes very interesting when we see that a social system composed of a complex network of microinteractions exists, but at the macro level an order emerges to create culture.
The memetics movement split almost immediately into two. The first group were those who wanted to stick to Dawkins' definition of a meme as "a unit of cultural transmission". Gibron Burchett, another memeticist responsible for helping to research and co-coin the term memetic engineering, along with Leveious Rolando and Larry Lottman, has stated that a meme can be defined, more precisely, as "a unit of cultural information that can be copied, located in the brain". This thinking is more in line with Dawkins' second definition of the meme in his book The Extended Phenotype. The second group wants to redefine memes as observable cultural artifacts and behaviors. However, in contrast to those two positions, Blackmore does not reject either concept of external or internal memes.
These two schools became known as the "internalists" and the "externalists." Prominent internalists included both Lynch and Brodie; the most vocal externalists included Derek Gatherer, a geneticist from Liverpool John Moores University, and William Benzon, a writer on cultural evolution and music. The main rationale for externalism was that internal brain entities are not observable, and memetics cannot advance as a science, especially a quantitative science, unless it moves its emphasis onto the directly quantifiable aspects of culture. Internalists countered with various arguments: that brain states will eventually be directly observable with advanced technology, that most cultural anthropologists agree that culture is about beliefs and not artifacts, or that artifacts cannot be replicators in the same sense as mental entities (or DNA) are replicators. The debate became so heated that a 1998 Symposium on Memetics, organised as part of the 15th International Conference on Cybernetics, passed a motion calling for an end to definitional debates. McNamara demonstrated in 2011 that functional connectivity profiling using neuroimaging tools enables the observation of the processing of internal memes, "i-memes", in response to external "e-memes".
An advanced statement of the internalist school came in 2002 with the publication of The Electric Meme, by Robert Aunger, an anthropologist from the University of Cambridge. Aunger also organised a conference in Cambridge in 1999, at which prominent sociologists and anthropologists were able to give their assessment of the progress made in memetics to that date. This resulted in the publication of Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science, edited by Aunger and with a foreword by Dennett, in 2001.
This evolutionary model of cultural information transfer is based on the concept that units of information, or "memes", have an independent existence, are self-replicating, and are subject to selective evolution through environmental forces. Starting from a proposition put forward in the writings of Richard Dawkins, this model has formed the basis of a new area of study, one that looks at the self-replicating units of culture. It has been proposed that just as memes are analogous to genes, memetics is analogous to genetics.
Critics contend that some proponents' assertions are "untested, unsupported or incorrect." Luis Benitez-Bribiesca, a critic of memetics, calls it "a pseudoscientific dogma" and "a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution" among other things. As factual criticism, he refers to the lack of a code script for memes, as the DNA is for genes, and to the fact that the meme mutation mechanism (i.e., an idea going from one brain to another) is too unstable (low replication accuracy and high mutation rate), which would render the evolutionary process chaotic. This, however, has been demonstrated (e.g. by Daniel C. Dennett, in Darwin's Dangerous Idea) to not be the case, in fact, due to the existence of self-regulating correction mechanisms (vaguely resembling those of gene transcription) enabled by the redundancy and other properties of most meme expression languages, which do stabilize information transfer. (E.g. spiritual narratives—including music and dance forms—can survive in full detail across any number of generations even in cultures with oral tradition only.) Memes for which stable copying methods are available will inevitably get selected for survival more often than those which can only have unstable mutations, therefore going extinct. (Notably, Benitez-Bribiesca's claim of "no code script" is also irrelevant, considering the fact that there is nothing preventing the information contents of memes from being coded, encoded, expressed, preserved or copied in all sorts of different ways throughout their life-cycles.)
Another criticism comes from semiotics, (e.g., Deacon, Kull) stating that the concept of meme is a primitivized concept of Sign. Meme is thus described in memetics as a sign without its triadic nature. In other words, meme is a degenerate sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.
Mary Midgley criticises memetics for at least two reasons: "One, culture is not best understood by examining its smallest parts, as culture is pattern-like, comparable to an ocean current. Many more factors, historical and others, should be taken into account than only whatever particle culture is built from. Two, if memes are not thoughts (and thus not cognitive phenomena), as Daniel C. Dennett insists in "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", then their ontological status is open to question, and memeticists (who are also reductionists) may be challenged whether memes even exist. Questions can extend to whether the idea of "meme" is itself a meme, or is a true concept. Fundamentally, memetics is an attempt to produce knowledge through organic metaphors, which as such is a questionable research approach, as the application of metaphors has the effect of hiding that which does not fit within the realm of the metaphor. Rather than study actual reality, without preconceptions, memetics, as so many of the socio-biological explanations of society, believe that saying that the apple is like an orange is a valid analysis of the apple."
Henry Jenkins, Joshua Green, and Sam Ford, in their book Spreadable Media (2013), criticize Dawkins' idea of the meme, writing that "while the idea of the meme is a compelling one, it may not adequately account for how content circulates through participatory culture." The three authors also criticize other interpretations of memetics, especially those which describe memes as "self-replicating", because they ignore the fact that "culture is a human product and replicates through human agency."
Like other critics, Maria Kronfeldner has criticized memetics for being based on an allegedly inaccurate analogy with the gene; alternately, she claims it is "heuristically trivial", being a mere redescription of what is already known without offering any useful novelty.
Roger Scruton has been critical of the meme as an idea. He believes that even were memes comprehensible as Dawkins depicts them, Dawkins irrationally presumes that religion must be a mental virus that will destroy the person who has it—Scruton points out that many such viruses have positive impacts, and he feels that religion, assuming the theory of memetics is true, is one of them. He also looks to the impacts of a lack of religion—including the tragedies such as Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China, which, he feels, are far more destructive. He used the analogy of mathematics—people who have bad mathematical theories make mistakes and may not come to reproduce, whereas those who believe in good mathematical theories are far more successful—so, over time, good mathematics prevails. He asks if religion could not be similar: it's survival is linked intrinsically to its truth.
Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain responded that there are actually two different types of memetic processes (controversial and informative). The first is a type of cultural idea, action, or expression, which does have high variance; for instance, a student of his who had inherited some of the mannerisms of Wittgenstein. However, he also describes a self-correcting meme, highly resistant to mutation. As an example of this, he gives origami patterns in elementary schools – except in rare cases, the meme is either passed on in the exact sequence of instructions, or (in the case of a forgetful child) terminates. This type of meme tends not to evolve, and to experience profound mutations in the rare event that it does.
Another definition, given by Hokky Situngkir, tried to offer a more rigorous formalism for the meme, memeplexes, and the deme, seeing the meme as a cultural unit in a cultural complex system. It is based on the Darwinian genetic algorithm with some modifications to account for the different patterns of evolution seen in genes and memes. In the method of memetics as the way to see culture as a complex adaptive system, he describes a way to see memetics as an alternative methodology of cultural evolution. However, there are as many possible definitions that are credited to the word "meme". For example, in the sense of computer simulation the term memetic algorithm is used to define a particular computational viewpoint.
The possibility of quantitative analysis of memes using neuroimaging tools and the suggestion that such studies have already been done was given by McNamara (2011). This author proposes hyperscanning (concurrent scanning of two communicating individuals in two separate MRI machines) as a key tool in the future for investigating memetics.
Velikovsky (2013) proposed the "holon" as the structure of the meme, synthesizing the major theories on memes of Richard Dawkins, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, E. O. Wilson, Frederick Turner (poet) and Arthur Koestler.
Proponents of memetics as described in the Journal of Memetics (out of print since 2005 ) – Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission believe that 'memetics' has the potential to be an important and promising analysis of culture using the framework of evolutionary concepts. Keith Henson in Memetics and the Modular-Mind (Analog Aug. 1987) makes the case that memetics needs to incorporate evolutionary psychology to understand the psychological traits of a meme's host. This is especially true of time-varying, meme-amplification host-traits, such as those leading to wars.
DiCarlo () has developed the idea of 'memetic equilibrium' to describe a cultural compatible state with biological equilibrium. In "Problem Solving and Neurotransmission in the Upper Paleolithic" (in press), diCarlo argues that as human consciousness evolved and developed, so too did our ancestors' capacity to consider and attempt to solve environmental problems in more conceptually sophisticated ways. Understood in this way, problem solving amongst a particular group, when considered satisfactory, often produces a feeling of environmental control, stability, in short—memetic equilibrium. But the pay-off is not merely practical, providing purely functional utility—it is biochemical and it comes in the form of neurotransmitters. The relationship between a gradually emerging conscious awareness and sophisticated languages in which to formulate representations combined with the desire to maintain biological equilibrium, generated the necessity for equilibrium to fill in conceptual gaps in terms of understanding three very important aspects in the Upper Paleolithic: causality, morality, and mortality. The desire to explain phenomena in relation to maintaining survival and reproductive stasis, generated a normative stance in the minds of our ancestors—Survival/Reproductive Value (or S-R Value).
Houben (2014) has argued on several occasions that the exceptional resilience of Vedic ritual and its interaction with a changing ecological and economic environment over several millennia can be profitably dealt with in a ‘cultural evolution’ perspective in which the Vedic mantra is the ‘meme’ or unit of cultural replication. This renders superfluous attempts to explain the phenomenon of Vedic tradition in genetic terms. The domain of Vedic ritual should be able to fulfil to a large extent the three challenges posed to memetics by B. Edmonds (2002 and 2005).
Research methodologies that apply memetics go by many names: Viral marketing, cultural evolution, the history of ideas, social analytics, and more. Many of these applications do not make reference to the literature on memes directly but are built upon the evolutionary lens of idea propagation that treats semantic units of culture as self-replicating and mutating patterns of information that are assumed to be relevant for scientific study. For example, the field of public relations is filled with attempts to introduce new ideas and alter social discourse. One means of doing this is to design a meme and deploy it through various media channels. One historic example of applied memetics is the PR campaign conducted in 1991 as part of the build-up to the first Gulf War in the United States.
The application of memetics to a difficult complex social system problem, environmental sustainability, has recently been attempted at thwink.org Using meme types and memetic infection in several stock and flow simulation models, Jack Harich has demonstrated several interesting phenomena that are best, and perhaps only, explained by memes. One model, The Dueling Loops of the Political Powerplace, argues that the fundamental reason corruption is the norm in politics is due to an inherent structural advantage of one feedback loop pitted against another. Another model, The Memetic Evolution of Solutions to Difficult Problems, uses memes, the evolutionary algorithm, and the scientific method to show how complex solutions evolve over time and how that process can be improved. The insights gained from these models are being used to engineer memetic solution elements to the sustainability problem.
Another application of memetics in the sustainability space is the crowdfunded Climate Meme Project conducted by Joe Brewer and Balazs Laszlo Karafiath in the spring of 2013. This study was based on a collection of 1000 unique text-based expressions gathered from Twitter, Facebook, and structured interviews with climate activists. The major finding was that the global warming meme is not effective at spreading because it causes emotional duress in the minds of people who learn about it. Five central tensions were revealed in the discourse about [climate change], each of which represents a resonance point through which dialogue can be engaged. The tensions were Harmony/Disharmony (whether or not humans are part of the natural world), Survival/Extinction (envisioning the future as either apocalyptic collapse of civilization or total extinction of the human race), Cooperation/Conflict (regarding whether or not humanity can come together to solve global problems), Momentum/Hesitation (about whether or not we are making progress at the collective scale to address climate change), and Elitism/Heretic (a general sentiment that each side of the debate considers the experts of its opposition to be untrustworthy).
Ben Cullen, in his book Contagious Ideas, brought the idea of the meme into the discipline of archaeology. He coined the term "Cultural Virus Theory", and used it to try to anchor archaeological theory in a neo-Darwinian paradigm. Archaeological memetics could assist the application of the meme concept to material culture in particular.
Francis Heylighen of the Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies has postulated what he calls "memetic selection criteria". These criteria opened the way to a specialized field of applied memetics to find out if these selection criteria could stand the test of quantitative analyses. In 2003 Klaas Chielens carried out these tests in a Masters thesis project on the testability of the selection criteria.
In Selfish Sounds and Linguistic Evolution, Austrian linguist Nikolaus Ritt has attempted to operationalise memetic concepts and use them for the explanation of long term sound changes and change conspiracies in early English. It is argued that a generalised Darwinian framework for handling cultural change can provide explanations where established, speaker centred approaches fail to do so. The book makes comparatively concrete suggestions about the possible material structure of memes, and provides two empirically rich case studies.
Australian academic S.J. Whitty has argued that project management is a memeplex with the language and stories of its practitioners at its core. This radical approach sees a project and its management as an illusion; a human construct about a collection of feelings, expectations, and sensations, which are created, fashioned, and labeled by the human brain. Whitty's approach requires project managers to consider that the reasons for using project management are not consciously driven to maximize profit, and are encouraged to consider project management as naturally occurring, self-serving, evolving process which shapes organizations for its own purpose.
Swedish political scientist Mikael Sandberg argues against "Lamarckian" interpretations of institutional and technological evolution and studies creative innovation of information technologies in governmental and private organizations in Sweden in the 1990s from a memetic perspective. Comparing the effects of active ("Lamarckian") IT strategy versus user–producer interactivity (Darwinian co-evolution), evidence from Swedish organizations shows that co-evolutionary interactivity is almost four times as strong a factor behind IT creativity as the "Lamarckian" IT strategy.
A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love is a 2003 book of selected essays and other writings by Richard Dawkins. Published five years after Dawkins's previous book Unweaving the Rainbow, it contains essays covering subjects including pseudoscience, genetic determinism, memetics, terrorism, religion and creationism. A section of the book is devoted to Dawkins' late adversary Stephen Jay Gould.
The book's title is a reference to a quotation of Charles Darwin, made in reference to Darwin's lack of belief in how "a perfect world" was designed by God (and a reference to Reverend Robert Taylor):
"What a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature!"Cultural evolution
Cultural evolution is an evolutionary theory of social change. It follows from the definition of culture as "information capable of affecting individuals' behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation and other forms of social transmission". Cultural evolution is the change of this information over time.Cultural evolution, historically also known as sociocultural evolution, was originally developed in the 19th century by anthropologists stemming from Charles Darwin's research on evolution. Today, cultural evolution has become the basis for a growing field of scientific research in the social sciences, including anthropology, economics, psychology and organizational studies. Previously, it was believed that social change resulted from biological adaptations, but anthropologists now commonly accept that social changes arise in consequence of a combination of social, evolutionary and biological influences.There have been a number of different approaches to the study of cultural evolution, including dual inheritance theory, sociocultural evolution, memetics, cultural evolutionism and other variants on cultural selection theory. The approaches differ not just in the history of their development and discipline of origin but in how they conceptualize the process of cultural evolution and the assumptions, theories and methods that they apply to its study. In recent years, there has been a convergence of the cluster of related theories towards seeing cultural evolution as a unified discipline in its own right.Early adopter
An early adopter (sometimes misspelled as early adapter or early adaptor) or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given company, product, or technology. The term originates from Everett M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations (1962).Francis Heylighen
Francis Paul Heylighen (born 1960) is a prominent Belgian cyberneticist investigating the emergence and evolution of intelligent organization. He presently works as a research professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Dutch-speaking Free University of Brussels, where he directs the transdisciplinary research group on "Evolution, Complexity and Cognition" and the Global Brain Institute. He is best known for his work on the Principia Cybernetica Project, his model of the Internet as a global brain, and his contributions to the theories of memetics and self-organization. He is also known, albeit to a lesser extent, for his work on gifted people and their problems.Godwin's law
Godwin's law (or Godwin's rule of Hitler analogies) is an Internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds, the point at which effectively the discussion or thread often ends. Promulgated by the American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin's law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.
Godwin has stated that he introduced Godwin's law in 1990 as an experiment in memetics.In 2012, "Godwin's law" became an entry in the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.Hundredth monkey effect
The hundredth monkey effect is a hypothetical phenomenon in which a new behaviour or idea is claimed to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behaviour or acknowledge the new idea.One of the primary factors in the promulgation of the story is that many authors quote secondary, tertiary or post-tertiary sources which have themselves misrepresented the original observations.Keith Henson
Howard Keith Henson (born 1942) is an American electrical engineer and writer on space engineering, space law (Moon treaty), memetics, cryonics, evolutionary psychology and physical limitations of Transhumanism.
In 1975, he and his then-wife Carolyn Meinel founded the L5 Society, which promoted space colonization and which was eventually folded into the National Space Society. More recently, Henson's outspoken criticism of the Church of Scientology and subsequent criminal proceedings have gained him headlines.Meme
A meme ( MEEM) is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture—often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme's reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.A field of study called memetics arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible. Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory's underpinnings. Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.The word meme is a neologism coined by Richard Dawkins. It originated from Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins's own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey's suggestion that "memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically" and proposed to regard memes as "physically residing in the brain". Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey's opinion, had been simpler.Meme hack
A meme hack is changing a meme to express a point of view not intended or inherent in the original image, or even opposite to the original. The meme can be thoughts, concepts, ideas, theories, opinions, beliefs, practices, habits, songs, or icons. Distortions of corporate logos are also referred to as subvertising. Another definition is: "Intentionally altering a concept or phrase, or using it in a different context, so as to subvert the meaning."Meme pool
A meme pool is the sum total of all memes (transmittable units of cultural ideas, practices, symbols) present in a given human population. The term is analogous to gene pool. The meme pool is in essence the matrix of the whole of the culture of a population. Because the memes of instruction of production of material culture are included, then the entire culture, including material culture and interactions between individuals is determined by information held within the meme pool. The state of a meme pool determines what sort of memes will be reproductive, and in this way it may be thought of as the meme-logical environment.
Examples of meme pools may include large Internet communities such as imageboards, online forums, and wikis. More tangibly, large shopping malls, schools, and other social institutions may be included in the definition of a meme pool.
The term was coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.Memetic engineering
Memetic engineering is a term developed by Leveious Rolando, John Sokol, and Gibron Burchett based on Richard Dawkins' theory of memes.
The process of developing memes, through meme-splicing and memetic synthesis, with the intent of altering the behavior of others in society or humanity.
The process of creating and developing theories or ideologies based on an analytical study of societies, cultures, their ways of thinking and the evolution of their minds.
The process of modifying human beliefs, thought patterns, etc.In contrast, gutation is a term developed by Erik Buitenhuis and is:
The process of altering the behaviour of oneself, with the intent of developing new memesMentifact
Mentifact (sometimes called a psychofact) is a term coined by Julian Huxley, used together with the related terms "sociofact" and "artifact" to describe how cultural traits, such as "beliefs, values, ideas", take on a life of their own spanning over generations, and are conceivable as objects in themselves. This concept has been useful to anthropologists in refining the definition of culture. For instance, Edward Tylor, the first academic anthropologist, included both artifacts and such abstract concepts as kinship systems as elements of culture. Anthropologist Robert Aunger explains that such an inclusive definition ends up encouraging poor anthropological practice because "it becomes difficult to distinguish what exactly is not part of culture". Aunger goes on to explain that after the cognitive revolution in the social sciences in the 1960s, there is "considerable agreement" among anthropologists that a mentifactual analysis, one that assumes that culture consists of "things in the head" (i.e. mentifacts) is the most appropriate way to define the concept of culture.Metameme
In the field of memetics, a metameme (or meta-meme) is defined as a meme about a meme. A metaphor or the idea of memetic engineering are, thus, metamemes. The concept of memes has been referred to as "The Metameme". Some other metamemes of interest include the meme tolerance and memeplexes.
Initial definitions of meta memes and the lingo surrounding the phenomenon have seen a recent overhaul, as a new perspective is beginning to emerge due to heightened interest from researchers and companies alike.Opinion leadership
Opinion leadership is leadership by an active media user who interprets the meaning of media messages or content for lower-end media users. Typically the opinion leader is held in high esteem by those who accept their opinions. Opinion leadership comes from the theory of two-step flow of communication propounded by Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz. Significant developers of the theory have been Robert K. Merton, C. Wright Mills and Bernard Berelson. This theory is one of several models that try to explain the diffusion of innovations, ideas, or commercial products.Sociofact
Sociofact is a term coined by biologist Julian Huxley, used together with the related terms "mentifact" (sometimes called a psychofact) and "artifact" to describe how cultural traits take on a life of their own, spanning over generations. For Huxley, the concept of culture contemplates artifacts, mentifacts, and sociofacts. A definition also explains that shared mentifacts, through artifacts, are called sociofacts. Sociofact also describes interpersonal interactions and social structures. This idea has been related to memetics or the memetic concept of culture.Susan Blackmore
Susan Jane Blackmore (born 29 July 1951) is a British writer, lecturer, sceptic, broadcaster, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. Her fields of research include memes, evolutionary theory, psychology, parapsychology, consciousness, and she is best known for her book The Meme Machine. She has written or contributed to over 40 books and 60 scholarly articles and is a contributor to The Guardian newspaper.The Meme Machine
The Meme Machine (2000) is a popular science book by psychologist Susan Blackmore on the subject of memes. Blackmore attempts to constitute memetics as a science by discussing its empirical and analytic potential, as well as some important problems with memetics. The first half of the book tries to create greater clarity about the definition of the meme as she sees it. The last half of the book consists of a number of possible memetic explanations for such different problems as the origin of language, the origin of the human brain, sexual phenomena, the internet and the notion of the self. These explanations, in her view, give simpler and clearer explanations than trying to create genetic explanations in these fields.
The idea of memes, and the word itself, were originally speculated by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene although similar, or analogous, concepts had been in currency for a while before its publishing. Richard Dawkins wrote a foreword to The Meme Machine.
In the book, Blackmore examines the difficulties associated with the meme including its definition and how to spot one as well as the difficulties which arise from seeing it as being like the gene. She sees the meme in terms of being a universal replicator, of which the gene is but an example, rather than being like the gene itself. Universal replicators possess three key characteristics: high fidelity replication, high levels of fecundity (and so lots of copies) and longevity. She believes that these are earlier days for memes than genes, and that while memes have attained/evolved a sufficiently high level of these characteristics to qualify as replicators, they are not as effective replicators as genes by these key characteristics.
While others have accepted the possible existence of memes, they are sometimes seen as subordinate to genes. The author suggests that this is not the case now and that memes are independent replicators. Indeed, she suggests that memes may now in some cases be driving genetic evolution and be the cause of the abnormally large brain in Homo sapiens. Blackmore notes that human brains began expanding in size at about the same time that we started using tools and suggests that once individuals began to imitate each other, selection pressure favored those who could make good choices on what to imitate, and could imitate intelligently.The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene is a 1976 book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, in which the author builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's Adaptation and Natural Selection (1966). Dawkins uses the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution (as opposed to the views focused on the organism and the group), popularising ideas developed during the 1960s by W. D. Hamilton and others. From the gene-centred view, it follows that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with each other.
A lineage is expected to evolve to maximise its inclusive fitness—the number of copies of its genes passed on globally (rather than by a particular individual). As a result, populations will tend towards an evolutionarily stable strategy. The book also introduces the term meme for a unit of human cultural evolution analogous to the gene, suggesting that such "selfish" replication may also model human culture, in a different sense. Memetics has become the subject of many studies since the publication of the book. In raising awareness of Hamilton's ideas, as well as making its own valuable contributions to the field, the book has also stimulated research on human inclusive fitness.In the foreword to the book's 30th-anniversary edition, Dawkins said he "can readily see that [the book's title] might give an inadequate impression of its contents" and in retrospect thinks he should have taken Tom Maschler's advice and called the book The Immortal Gene.In July 2017 a poll to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Royal Society science book prize listed The Selfish Gene as the most influential science book of all time.Viruses of the Mind
"Viruses of the Mind" is an essay by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, first published in the book Dennett and His Critics: Demystifying Mind (1993). Dawkins originally wrote the essay in 1991 and delivered it as a Voltaire Lecture on 6 November 1992 at the Conway Hall Humanist Centre. The essay discusses how religion can be viewed as a meme, an idea previously expressed by Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976). Dawkins analyzes the propagation of religious ideas and behaviors as a memetic virus, analogous to how biological and computer viruses spread. The essay was later published in A Devil's Chaplain (2003) and its ideas are further explored in the television programme, The Root of All Evil? (2006).