Monday, 11 May 2015

Brent Jesiek's history of memetics

In 2013 I called for a history of cultural evolution. Something like a more fleshed-out version of my own Memetic Timeline.

However at that stage I hadn't seen Brent Jesiek's 110 page MSc thesis. This presents a comprehensive history of memetics. It mostly concentrates on the period from 1975 to 2003. It is available free of charge online - to ResearchGate members.

Brent Jesiek's history is comprehensive and impressive. It's a history of memetics - rather than a history of cultural evolution - focusing heavily on those thinkers that dealt with the possibility of there being cultural equivalents of genes. This rules out much of the work done in academia on cultural evolution - much of which is still very confused and muddled about this point.

Unfortunately, this focus leaves out much of interest - and some of what it puts in its place is not too interesting. For example, there's quite a large section devoted to the efforts of Aaron Lynch. Alas, Lynch's book on memetics was pretty terrible. Paul Marsden's account of how bad it was is of much better quality. Also, Susan Blackomre doesn't get much space in this history - which doesn't seem very fair, given the scale of her efforts.

Anyway, despite some misplaced emphasis, Brent Jesiek's history is an essential guide to the history of memetics. It's great to have such a resource available online.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that link, I love a good Venn diagram. Pity I didn't get hold of that thesis in 2003 when I was grinding out mine.