3 May 2008

What's in a meme?

The term meme is one that I have only come across recently and thought perhaps that it was only to be found in the blog world.

I have been "tagged for a meme" by other bloggers several times recently- these seem to be generally in the form of a bank of questions you need to answer and then choose another 5 or so victims to pass the meme on to.

These meme things seem to me to be very much in the vein of a chain letter. You know the sort of thing - copy this letter out and give to six of your friends. Break the chain and you'll bring us all bad luck. Ultimately in some you are supposed to be the beneficiary of great wealth - I wonder why it never comes my way. I've even been part of chains that involve the magic ingredient for a cake.

Now I grew up in a society where chain letters are frowned on, so often the link stops here. Blog memes to me seem to be similarly viral. Innocent enough at first but after you've been tagged to do the same thing 4 times by different people, or perhaps worse by the same person for two or memes they lose their charm. Chances are that if I can't find a window of time to do the thing straight away, it will lose whatever allure it had, and I won't do it at all. That happened with a couple this week where I've been away with work, got out of my usual routine, and other things took priority. Strikes me to that a meme could be a very good way to alienate a friend or two.

Anyway I looked up meme on wikipedia if they interest you.
A meme (pronounced /miːm/[1] or /mɛm/[citation needed]) consists of any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity. Memes propagate themselves and can move through a "culture" in a manner similar to the behavior of a virus.

The other way I have seen the word used this week is in a meme map about Web 2.0 and its differences with web 1.0

I'm really not sure that the concept of meme is being used in the same way here.
However I do think that blog and email memes have the capacity to clog up our mail boxes and cyber ways with cyber junk, and also to cause unforseen alienation. I'm sorry if I have offended anyone by not responding to their meme, but there it is.


sally906 said...

LOL - What a lot of research :)

I pick and choose meme's sometimes I'll join in other times I won't - but feel no guilt for not playing.

I deliberately don't send those chain emails on either - you know the ones: send to 5 friends in 5 seconds and you'll win good luck but your goats will all die if you don't. I have one girl I work with have kittens if she see's I don't send them on - poor love.

Anonymous said...

"memes" first came to my attention in the late 1970s or early 1980s, as coined by Richard Dawkins, the (now famous) evolutionary biologist, in his then-research work in which he compared biological "genes" to a "meme" - computer equivalent - and created models of how "memes" could evolve. Of course, this was well before the internet. I am sure RD must have written this up in one or more of his books.


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