Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Wanted: analysis of the meme as a meme

Joe Brewer once wrote:

It is a beautiful irony that the “meme” meme won out (as indicated by the amount of attention garnered with it as the label for cultural transmission) using the very evolutionary processes that constitute how cultural evolution actually works.
The story of the "meme" meme is indeed an interesting one. There have been some histories of memetics published. One of the more comprehensive ones is:

I think there's some further scope for analysis of the rise of the "meme" meme.

One of the features of the story is the repeated attacks on the meme concept by confused academics who don't properly understand it. Cultural evolution has featured an ongoing war between academics and popularizers which has, I believe, been a destructive war which has done damage to the field. Presumably, without this conflict, the term "meme" would be even more widely used and understood.

Another interesting feature of the rise of the "meme" meme is its use of memetic hitchhiking on the most viral content on the internet. A massive marketing department probably couldn't have come up with a better plan for promoting the "meme" meme - and yet the whole business with internet memes apparently happened with very little central planning.

Anyway, the rise of the "meme" meme - in competition with the various meme synonyms - is an interesting topic for students of cultural evolution. It's metamemetics! I look forward to the whole topic being given a more comprehensive treatment.

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