The shallow end of the meme pool

I’ve been tidying up and fixing all sorts of things recently including my CDs, the contents of the box room, the lights in the kitchen, my plant pots and the categorisation of my blog posts. See how neatly they are listed on the right. That’s one of the things I’ve been doing. There’ve been all sorts of spin-off from this activity; for example I can now take a shower again after three months or so of strip washes and baths, (who’d have thought that when the kitchen lights blew they’d take the shower with them?)

One thing I’ve noticed while wading through my blog posts is that the word “meme” has become little more than a synonym for “personal quiz”.

Dawkin’s original explanation of the meme embraced such things as “tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches”, according to Wikepedia. But as you know, in the blogosphere a meme is a quiz which you answer, naming one or more other people so that they have a social obligation to do the same. I’ve posted 15 posts which I have categorised as “memes”, and though not all of them fall into this category most of them do.

This has led me to two specific thoughts:

  • don’t we lose something if this word is narrowed and dumbed down in this way, and
  • would it be possible to create memes in the blogosphere which aren’t quizzes?

In many respects of course the blogosphere comprises nothing but mimetic behaviour. “Posting a blog entry”, “commenting on a blog post” and even “having a blog” could all of them be added to Dawkins’ original list of memes. People lift and copy ideas, topics and subject matter all the time and we learn on-line behaviours (such as providing or using RSS feeds) on the fly.

Explicit memes in blogland have to be posts whose subject matter is generic enough for anyone to post on and which differ from each other by the poster making them personal. I suspect I am trying to square a circle which simply cannot be squared.

Still I would like to think of a subject which anyone can post about, which is not actually about them.

Suggestions, anyone?

5 responses to “The shallow end of the meme pool

  1. Lolcats? Surely bukkits count as memes?

  2. In the comics blogosphere, you occasionally find a ‘Draw xxxxx’ meme. The first, I think, was ‘Draw Batgirl’. Pointless, perhaps, but at least it wasn’t a ‘tell everyone about you’ meme.

  3. I agree with your linked definition that a meme is a cultrual bit of information that’s shared and changes.

    I like the simplicity of the definition that it’s, “an idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve.

    Question lists don’t count as memes, to my mind. Where’s the idea? What idea is being developed or what notion advanced?

    An indulgent example :
    The idea : media control and forcibly add texture to our experiences, beyond our lived experiential learning and even beyond our direct percepts.
    I muse over the implications for life in my corner.
    Conversation develops that I listen to.
    My own ideas on this matter evolve, changing and informing future dialogue.

  4. A Dawkins meme (as opposed to an internet one) is analagous to a gene. So it replicates itself, and it may randomly mutate, but it doesn’t evolve, I don’t think. It’s genomes (collections of genes), not genes, that evolve, really.

    There are lots of (Dawkins) memes in the blogosphere; lolcats is a great example, especially since its a lot longer-lived than most; usually they are particular news items which are picked up by one blog from another, but only last for a few days.

    The possibility of an (internet) meme which would persist but which is not in any way dependent on personal information or preference is a fascinating one. The best I could come up with (apart from a lolcats-equivalnet) is “what’s a good charity to support” but even that would get personal, probably.

    PZ Myers has just invented a meme which is specifically designed to evolve, btw.

  5. Oh blimey, well here’s me displaying my ignorance. I fondly thought I knew the origin of the word “meme”. as being something that is all about me me me. Which actually in the blogosphere is what it has become.

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