Friday, 23 May 2014

The memexplosion continues

Three years ago I wrote an article for this blog titled "2011 - year of the meme!". It started out by saying:

The latest Google Trends results for "meme" are pretty spectacular

However, what happened next was even more spectacular - memes exploded on the internet - mainly in the form of "internet memes". 2011 was the year that memes went viral on the internet.

Another article tracked the gene-meme crossover point. Retrospectively we can say that 2011 was the year when memes became more popular than genes on the internet.

However then things seemed to plateau and level off. I wrote the peak meme article - wondering if internet memes would prove to be a fad.

Now, memes are on the rise again. It seems clear that the memexplosion is continuing. Here are the graphs:

The current Google Trends results for "meme"

The current Google Trends results for "memes"

The memexplosion has probably been good for memetics. We have lots of new article and scientific articles using the "meme" terminology. There's a new association with shallow pop culture - which might further put off those in academia - but I think we can live with the association for the sake of sheer popularity. It is hard to say for sure - but it looks as though the resistance to memes in academia hasn't held back the online memexplosion very significantly. If it did ever have an effect on meme adoption, it looks as though it isn't going to any more.

There still seem to be a lot of scientists who are simply confused about memes, memetics - and cultural evolution in general. However, it now seems practically inevitable that the next generation - who have been brought up with memes - will enthusiastically adopt the term. While it is true that science is not a popularity contest, I expect that, as time passes, more of the older scientists will cave in to popular usage - and make their peace with the excellent and appropriate term for sections of heritable cultural information: "meme". Even if that doesn't happen they will eventually die off: "Science progresses one funeral at a time".

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