I have often heard about 'meme' - I have even read
about it... but it's a little confused.
Does anyone feels likely to summarize the 'meme' history, field and concept.
William THEAUX, NYC 97/10/03 18:12:22
The term 'meme' was coined by Richard Dawkins. [Roughly "memory" + "gene": a unit of cultural transmission.] Many people who have written about cultural evolution have used (and still use) other terms for the units of selection/transmission, but "meme" appears to have won the popular recognition contest, and we seem to be stuck with it.
The 'field' began with population geneticists, or evolutionary theorists, such as Wilson, Dawkins, Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman, Boyd and Richerson. It has merged with evolutionary psychology and evolutionary anthropology at one end (the more "sociobiological" end), and with adaptive systems theory of social systems (e.g. the Sugarscape model, SWARM simulations etc.) and evolutionary econ at the other. Basically, any Alife model which allows information in agents to change as a result of social interactions is a "memish" sort of model, though the word "meme" may appear nowhere in the discussion of the model. Many people (myself included) dislike the term "meme" for various reasons and try to avoid using it.
As the meme concept becomes more widespread, watch out for popular drivel (as happened with the "chaos" concept, for example) that has no connection to serious work.
Suggest you try:
I thank you very much for the information about meme. I have been able to visit a series of Web pages - beautiful and interesting.
Yet, I must say that I have not been 'intellectually' satisfied with the result. I did not find a sound and consistent definition, description of a meme. So I went back to the source and read again Dawkins. I am still very confused. I read and went twice thorough this book, a few years ago. As I was very intrigued, I asked a friend who was beginning to read the book - if he could find for me any reference to a certain type of gene - at least showy if not selfish.
I have been embarrassed to mention the 'Y' gene/chromosome - until some people agreed that its very prominent station in generation/lineage made it a 'best' example for Dawkins' thesis. Recently its analysis in the Cohen family outlined again its unique behavior.
Yet it is never mentioned - or just enough to indicate that Dawkins knew about its existence! - in 'The Selfish Gene'.
As a psychoanalyst, I am very interested with what is obvious and never mentioned. My perplexity was reinforced when at the same time a politician responsible for family policy in my 'scientific' country published a book blatantly titled 'The Y' - and never mentioned in its 200 pages that it was 100% preserved from father to son, thus giving an obvious reason for the 'culture' of the Patronymic (emphasized in psychoanalysis as the Name of the father).
I say 'culture' (I could say 'rule', 'tradition') for this is where Dawkins invites us. He says that 'culture' is the meme soup. So after being quite astounded with Dawkins' Y-omission, I encounter another puzzling situation :
I understand that Dawkins compare the meme he coins with 'idea'. Ideas are vague enough to be a good reference for an approach and new concept. But there again, he never mentions an element which seems to fit fine too with meme. I mean ; the 'name' - noun or verb, aka Significand, the linguistic unit.
Why does Dawkins describe so well the notion of 'name' with his concept of 'meme' and never mentions the name 'name'?
Why does Dawkins describe so well the essentiality of 'Y' with his concept of 'gene' and never mentions the 'Y' chromosome - the chromosome of the 'Name'?
One of my colleague said - he shows his Oedipus complex! ok - we have already been through this. I think that we can go a little bit further with the Psychoanalytical theory.
I mean by Psychoanalysis, something which has been repressed by Freud, hallucinated by Reich, hidden by Lacan - something which is eventually to be recognized as the intuition of Ecology and, when it is well understood, Ecology itself.
This is why I articulate now this post with the thread about <Religion and Environmentalism>, (following my initial post questioning <meme>).
Copernicus had no notion of 'space' (that was only introduced later by Tycho) - similarly Freud had no notion of Ecology (only introduced by Lacan and its introduction of cybernetics). Today, it is possible to recognize the concept of Unconscious as it represents the Environment (an/or our Ecosystem).
Thus when Lacan stated : <<the Unconscious is structured as a language>>, we may read : the Environment is structured as a language.
It is very interesting to articulate this psychoanalytical story with Dawkins' omissions. Dawkins fails to say those memes are significands (words) and that genes are names.
Actually one can find much more in following this
However I would like to end with a question - for an answer may be very helpful for going further.
Answering my first post (Re: meme) email@example.com wrote:
>Basically, any Alife model which allows information
in agents to
>change as a result of social interactions is a "memish" sort of
>model, though the word "meme" may appear nowhere in the
>discussion of the model
Could you please explicit a little this very interesting statement (is Alife a typo?).
William THEAUX, NYC 97/10/05 22:10:02
Looks like William Theaux got lost in the morass of intellectual candy stores on the web! I would need to know the instructions to subscribe to the enviroethics list before responding by this route. I tried mailing to listproc and listserv at mailbase.ac.uk, but got an undeliverable mail message. The idea that there is "nothing but fluff" in memetics is itself a thought contagion now, so the proper place to respond is to the whole list of people to whom William sent his impressions.
For this and any other list, you can always post a the abstract and URL to
my online paper below. The URL is http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/mememath.html.
He might like it better than animated lions and online "churches"! My online book chapter is less technical, but still far more substantial than most web sites. It is at ttp://www.mcs.net/~aaron/tc1.html.
Unfortunately there are many web sites with pretty pictures and wonderful animations that promote little more than a grade school concept of memetics. The profusion of such sites makes it difficult for serious readers to find serious material.
For a much more rigorous definition than available from Dawkins or Dennett, along with symbolic and mathematical analysis, see my paper UNITS, EVENTS, AND DYNAMICS OF MEME REPLICATION at http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/mememath.html. For a "plain English" introduction written at undergraduate level, see the first chapter of my book THOUGHT CONTAGION. It's title is "Self-Sent Messages and Mass Belief," and is at http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/tc1.html. It contains graphs of meme host population versus time and explains some of the forces causing population growth. (Other articles are available at the general site below.)
My book also has sections on such topics as the memetics of patrilineal names and of course the propagation of religions.
UNITS, EVENTS, AND DYNAMICS OF MEME REPLICATION
An evolutionary recursive replicator theory of mental/brain information is presented. Noting that all replicator theories rest at least tacitly upon the fundamental notions of causation and of calling two or more entities "the same" with respect to an abstraction, the concept is rendered explicit in defining the terms "mmemon" and "meme." A symbolic calculus of mnemon conjugations and replication events follows. Differential equations are developed for meme host population versus time in a two-meme system, modeling the dynamics whereby events at the individual level give rise to trends at the population level. This lays a foundation for computerized simulations and the falsification or verification of specific memetic hypotheses. Mechanisms of creativity as a population phenomenon are examined, with the memetic perspective yielding a novel explanation for the temporal clustering of independent co-creations. Creation and propagation are integrated into a theory of evolution by variation and natural selection of memes.
I once asked what means 'meme'.
I follow up with Aaron Lynch <firstname.lastname@example.org>'s message, in which he gave quite interesting addresses about meme:
and others linked to these pages.
I also received other pages from other sources:
Aaron's work is really deep - the others may be more superficial - yet I shall not reject them.
For I have notice something in Aaron's excellent work - that defines and studies memes in various and sometime very long pages. As I have my personnal idea, I have used the search-function to explore Aaron's work with several words: 'linguistics'- result=0, as well as 'Significand', 'noun', 'verb', 'name' result= 0
Not even once (but for grammatical reason) Aaron mention those concepts - so that it is fascinating.
For instance 'meme' can be defined so: <<A memory item, or portion of an organism's neurally-stored information, identified using the abstraction system of the observer..>> It fits so well with a foundation of linguistics, that I have felt all excited...
I could not resist to add my own 'page', for I believe
that the concept of 'meme' is one of great use in psychoanalysis.
In a previous message I wrote (approx) this:
<Why does Dawkins describe so well the essentiality of 'Y'
<in his <<the Selfish Gene>> while paradoxically, he never
<mentions that 'Y' chromosome - the chromosome of the 'Name'?
Those 'scotomes' at the center of the target are vey
important, and interesting.
I have title my page : Conceptualization of 'meme' in Psychoanalysis
The Freudian notion of 'ego' is what has been called 'meme' by Dawkins. For me, it is a matter of fact. And this is this fact that I analyzes.
William THEAUX, NYC 97/10/10 19:47:21
[except for correspondence © CYBEK of New York, 1999.]