Monday, 24 October 2011

Definitions of the term "meme"

A literature search found these proposed definitions of the term "meme". In no particular order:
A unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.
- Richard Dawkins (1976) - The Seflish Gene
A unit of information residing in the brain (Cloak's i-culture).
- Richard Dawkins (1982) - The Extended Phenotype
An element of culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, especially imitation.
- The Oxford English Dictionary
An idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.
- Merriam-Webster
A cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.
- Reference.com
Any kind, amount, and configuration of information in culture that shows both variation and coherent transmission.
- William H. Durham (1992).
A unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.
- Richard Brodie (1996, p 32).
Memes are the basic building blocks of our minds and culture, in the same way that genes are the basic building blocks of biological life.
- Richard Brodie (2008)
The unit of cultural heredity analogous to the gene; the internal representation of knowledge.
- Brodie 1995 - Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme
A unit of cultural inheritance.
- Bill Spight (2002) Standard definition
A section of heritable cultural information.
- Tim Tyler (2011) Memetics
Every sort of pattern which includes a template for its own replication.
- Evan Louis Sheehan (2006) The Mocking Memes, p.7.
A cultural expression which is passed on from one person or group to another person or group.
- John Gunders, Damon Brown, John Gunders (2011) The Complete Idiot's Guide to Memes
Constellations of activated and non-activated synapses within neural memory networks.
- Delius (1989)
Information patterns infecting human minds.
- Grant (1990)
Ideas or representations "...the internal end of the knowledge relationship"
- Plotkin (1993, p 215).
The hierarchically arranged components of semantic memory, encoded by discrete neural circuits awaiting identification.
- Edward Wilson (1998, p 148).
A memory item, or portion of an organism’s neurally-stored information, identified using the abstraction system of the observer, whose instantiation depended critically on causation by prior instantiation of the same memory item in one or more other organisms’ nervous systems. ("Sameness" of memory items is determined with respect to the above-mentioned abstraction system of the observer.
- Aaron Lynch (1991)
The least unit of socio-cultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change.
- Wilkins, J. S. (1998) What's in a Meme?
A (cognitive) information-structure able to replicate using human hosts and to influence their behavior to promote replication.
- Henrik Bjarneskans, Bjarne Gr√łnnevik and Anders Sandberg (2006) The Lifecycle of Memes.
Cultural information units that are the smallest elements that replicate themselves with reliability and fecundity.
- B.M. Ayyub (2010)
A unit of cultural information as it is represented in the brain.
- Liane Gabora (1998)
A pattern of information (a state within a space of possible states).
- Liane Gabora
A pattern of information, one that happens to have evolved a form which induces people to repeat that pattern.
- Peter de Jong
A brain control (or informational) state that can potentially cause fundamentally new behaviours and/or thoughts when replicated in another brain.
- Keith Stanovich
A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic.
- Glenn Grant (1990)
The smallest idea that can copy itself while remaining self contained and intact.
- Brent Silby (2000) What is a Meme?
Istructions that can be followed to produce behavior.
- Brent Silby (2000) What is a Meme?
An idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media).
- Urban Dictionary (2011)
A pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable.
- Urban Dictionary (2011)
The fundamental unit of information, analogous to the gene in emerging evolutionary theory of culture.
- Urban Dictionary (2011)
An idea that replicates by symbiotically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the meme -- similar to the way a t-phage virus reproduces by hijacking the DNA of a bacterium.
- Intelligen definition
A meme is information which propagates, has impact, and persists.
- Robert Finkelstein
A meme is information transmitted by any number of sources to at least an order of magnitude more recipients than sources, and propagated during at least twelve hours.
- Robert Finkelstein
A meme is information transmitted by one or more primary sources to recipients who, as secondary sources, retransmit the information to at leastan order of magnitude more recipients than primary sources, where propagation persists at least ten hours and the information has observable impact in addition to its transmission.
- Robert Finkelstein
A self-reproducing and propagating information structure analogous to a gene in biology.
- Robert Finkelstein and Bilal M. Ayyub (2009)
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.
- Yahoo Reference dictionary (2011)
A feature of a culture, for example its language, that is passed from one generation to the next.
- Macmillan dictionary (2011)
Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity.
- Wiktionary (2011)
A self-propagating unit of cultural evolution having a resemblance to the gene (the unit of genetics).
- Wiktionary (2011)
a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation).
- vocabulary.com (2011)
A meme is an idea or habit that's passed between people and generations through imitation. An example of a meme is the cultural tradition of women wearing skirts.
- vocabulary.com (2011)

Other authors have offered broadly similar definitions, using dfifferent terminology. For example, here are By Robert Boyd, Peter J. Richerson (1985, page 33) - writing in "Culture and the Evolutionary Process":
The information that a particular individual inherits culturally will be referred to as that individual's cultural repertoire; specific elements of the cultural repertoire are called cultural variants.
This list remains under construction.

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