Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Marketing of memetics

A recent popular history of evolutionary psychology purports to explain "how evolutionary psychology went viral". The gist of the article is that E.P. hitchhiked to success on the back of sex-related memes and controversial content. This is essentially the same marketing strategy that The Naked Ape used - back in its day.

I've previously speculated that evolutionary psychology's biggest drawback - the failure of most of its practitioners to get to grips with culture and cultural evolution - has also contributed to its popularity. Ignoring human differences and concentrating on human commonalities has made evolutionary psychology less offensive and more politically correct. This is in stark contrast to memetics - which is all about the differences between humans.

Can memeticists learn anything from the evolutionary psychology marketing strategy? Memetics, like evolutionary psychology, studies human behaviour - a topic which most people are interested in. Where evolutionary psychology has historically studied human commonalities, memetics studies human differences. It is an essential sidekick for evolutionary psychology. Memetics has historically been controversial. It hasn't been linked to sexual content very much so far - though Susan Blackmore managed to write several chapters about that topic in The Meme Machine. The volume of sexual content on the internet suggests that there is plenty of content there to be studied. However, memetics has its own associated popular content (which evolutionary psychology lacked) - namely: internet memes. Hitchhiking on this content is the most obvious route to popularity for memetics, IMO.

Articles like: Indiana University Will Devote $1 Million to the Study of Internet Memes indicate that interest is out there.

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