Monday, 5 March 2012

Is the internet meme explosion good for memetics?

Some question whether the modern explosion of internet memes is good for memetics - with comments like:
Memetics - The first legitimate field of study effectively obliterated by the internet's power of irrelevant content.
It seems like everyone on the Internet acts like a 14 year old troll. Can I haz my culture back? I don’t think that lolcats are funny. They might as well symbolize the death of memetics. The fittest memes are parody macros. Can we say cyber-idiocracy?
One benefit I expect is that we will see fewer critics doubting the existence of memes. As late as 2005 we had comments like this (from Maurice Bloch):

[Memeticists] will bring up the originality of thinking of the evolution of culture from 'the memes' point of view'. And, of course, they are right, because if they had been able to argue that there were such things as memes, this would have been a fascinating new perspective on human history. The point is, however, that they have not succeded in arguing convincingly - any more than the diffusionists had before them when talking of 'traits' that there are such things in the world as memes. And so, talk of invasion by the 'body snatchers', to use Dennett's delightful phrase, is an idea as intriguing, as frightening and as likely as invasion by little green men from Mars.
I think one of the positive effects of the modern internet meme explosion is that doubting whether memes exist will look increasingly stupid. Now that memes are a ubiquitous pop-culture phenomenon, the audience will increasingly just think: of course memes exist - duh! So: the frequency of this criticism seems likely to go down.

The modern meme explosion also seems bound to bring new blood and faces to memetics. Yes, it associates memetics with junk pop culture, but I think that is inevitable - and not to be shied away from too much. Marketers and advertisers will trace the term back to its roots, and get turned on to the topic that way.

The meme explosion may well eventually lead to a memetics explosion.

After all, there's got to be a scientific field that studies memes - right?

1 comment:

  1. probably! after all is only an hypothesis!