Meme Recap

So recapping to get my thoughts in some sort of order –

1) I started off looking at memes as an entry point into the world of learning, creativity and innovation.
2) As a metaphor, memes roughly equate to genes. They are patterns of information that propagate themselves through books, brains, videos etc. They are roughly analogous to ideas.
3) Memes have a number of academic problems with them – not slight ones either – but are a popular metaphor for thinking about ideas and how they spread/evolve.
4) Possibly thanks to the evolutionary nature of the metaphor, the network of people across which a meme spreads, and the meme’s propagation mechanisms have gained importance, or at least they need to be examined more closely.

So where now?
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Mr O’Reilly’s Meme Maps

Thought this article by Mr O’Reilly was interesting for a number of reasons.

1. I hadn’t seen the idea of meme maps before. As much as anything it seems to be an indication of how much the meme meme has propagated.

2. If we assume that the meme is a useful metaphor for understanding thinking and innovation, then one thing this article makes clear is that, certainly in the digital world, to understand fully how memes propagate we need to understand something about the P and something about the P2P. That is People, and People to People Networks.
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Non-Scientific Memes

Memes are fairly common concepts in the world of blogs, and they tend to be receptor/phenotype free. David Gagne has put down the bloggers definition:

meme: any expression (usually the smallest/shortest possible) that can convey meaning; an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture

The Weblog Dictionary @

Real Live Memes

This is great!

a) There’s that research on reading words as a whole (though every time I’ve been shown these things there’s always a misspelling – in this one it should be “important” not “importent” (when the letters are unjumbled) – sorry – pedantic

b) More interesting is the data on the propagation of the meme.

[And if you haven’t seen the research, try reading this to get a flavour of it:
David Harris’ Science & Literature
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Problems with Memes

Found a good, clear article here which picks up four problems with memes.

Briefly these are:
1) the definitions of replicators/phenotypes are confusing or ambiguous
2) the evolutionary model associated with memes is Lamarckian (3 legged dogs have 3 legged puppies) not Darwinian
3) memes often used instead of genes (i.e. memes are often called in to play as explanations for cultural preferences when simpler/more rigorous sociobiological explanations can be used)
4) the notion of self – the idea that, while being at the mercy of genes and memes, we can pick and chose the memes that help us.

Meme problems: