Sunday, 16 June 2013

Meme warfare

There's a fair amount of conflict in the biosphere - and some of it is between memes and memeplexes. Memeplexes sometimes share an ecological niche with direct competitors - and the result is fairly often a battle to the death. VHS vs Beetamax and Blue Ray vs HD DVD are well-known examples from the tech realm - which is often characterized by winner-takes-all battles.

Probably the most common established terms for this sort of thing are Culture war and However, these terms seem to have acquired some pretty specific connotations. For example, culture war is typically used to refer to conflicts between entire cultures - rather than conflicts within whole cultures. I think this leaves a substantial niche which the concept of meme warfare could usefully fill.

Meme wars happen in the realm of marketing and advertising. They happen in politics. They happen in science. Famously, they happen in religion.

Meme warfare is often characterized by nasty tactics. F.U.D., negative advertising, astroturfing, culture jamming and agitprop. Thus the saying: all's fair in meme warfare.

Not all kinds of conflicts qualify as "war". If the parties have conflicts of interests - but come to an agreement, that's not normally classified as "war". It's the same with cultural conflicts. Sometimes memes compete for resources - but are never in danger of wiping each other out. Unless it's a serious conflict - in which one bunch of memes is fairly explicitly acting so as to exterminate and eliminate its competitors, that's not really "warfare".

Writers and artists often produce memes that compete - but it's only rarely meme warfare. Their memes can often peacefully coexist.

The history of meme warfare is interesting. One of the effects of the virtualization of conflict is that a lot of conflict has moved into the ideosphere. However, while memes have gained in power and numbers over time, they have increasingly found ways to cooperate, form large groups - and avoid conflict.

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