Friday, 22 August 2014

Folk memetics

Some bits of memetics entered common usage before the 2011 online meme explosion.

Here are some examples of what we might call "folk memetics":

  • Contagion - in the dictionary the term refers to both organic and cultural influences;
  • Corporate DNA - this term has its own wikipedia page;
  • Organizational DNA - this term seems to have been coined in 1993 - it took off in 1995;
  • Man-machine symbiosis - this term dates back to the 1960s;
  • Artificial life - this dates back to the 1980s;
  • Computer virus / worm - dates back to the 1970s;
  • Earworm - Wikipedia says the term dates from the 1980s. It took of in 2009.
  • Go viral - this phrase took off in 2009;
  • Epidemics - the "obesity epidemic" and the "smoking epidemic" point towards generalized epidemiology;
  • Emotional contagion - as illustrated by mass hysteria.
Of course there are also examples of memetics-like thinking dating back to before the 1970s. For example:

Popper's popular phrase: "letting our ideas die in our stead" implies that ideas are alive - a la memetics.

Similarly August Schleicher was viewing languages as organisms back in the 1800s. Here he is in 1863:

Languages are natural organisms, which, without being determinable by the will of man, arose, grew, and developed themselves, in accordance with fixed laws, and then again grow old and die out; to them, too, belongs that succession of phenomena which is wont to be termed 'life'.
The memetics timeline offers an early history of memetics which offers more examples.

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