Saturday, 17 September 2016

Memetics and the science of going viral

I've seen a fair number of new popular articles on memetics (not just memes) as a result of the internet meme explosion. Here's one of the latest ones, titled memetics and the science of going viral. It's a reasonable article - though academic students of cultural evolution don't even get a mention - and instead we get some links to the author's own content from the field of law. The article notes that even the US president has referenced internet memes - as a testament to their popularity.

I noticed one mistake: he article says that the term “memetics” was first proposed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his popular 1976 book “The Selfish Gene”. Chapter 11 of that book does use the term "population memeticist" - but the term "memetics" is usually attributed to Ariel Lucas - following Douglas Hofstadter's attribution in his 1983 book, Metamagical Themas. I'm often surprised how many people go from meme to memetics, completely bypassing the academic literature on cultural evolution, much of which systematically ignores memetics.

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