Friday, March 31, 2006

Examples of Memes

Below is a list of examples of memes. Is there anything you would eliminate from this list? Do you have anything to add?

Crudely-stated versions of some common memes include:

* Technology: cars, paper-clips, etc. Technology clearly demonstrates mutation as well, which memetic (or genetic) progress requires. Many paper-clip designs have emerged throughout history, for example, with varying degrees of longevity, fecundity and copying fidelity (i.e., memetic "success"). An often-cited example of "technology as meme" involves the building of a fire.
* Jingles: advertising slogans set to an engaging melody
* Earworms: songs that one can't stop humming or thinking.
* Jokes: or at least those jokes popularly considered funny.
* Proverbs and aphorisms: for example: "You can't keep a good man down".
* Nursery rhymes: propagated from parent to child over many generations, sometimes with associated actions and movements.
* Children's culture: games, activities and taunts typical for different age groups.
* Epic poems: once important memes for preserving oral history; writing has largely superseded them.
* Chain letters: "You must send this message to five other people, or something bad will happen to you."
* Conspiracy theories
* Fashions: especially clothing styles such as blue jeans.
* Medical and safety advice: "Don't swim for an hour after eating" or "Steer in the direction of a skid".
* Movies: very memetic given their mass replication, movies tend to cause people to replicate scenes or repeat popular catch phrases such as "You can't handle the truth!" from A Few Good Men or "Alllllllrighty then!" from Ace Ventura, even if they have not seen the movie themselves.
* Science: An empirical study shows that the scientific community exposes gene names, or more generally, concepts of genes, to a selective process.
* Religions: complex memes, including folk religious beliefs; can even spread virally (such as The Prayer of Jabez).
* Popular concepts: these include Freedom, Justice, Ownership, Open Source, Egoism, or Altruism
* Viral marketing: A type of marketing based on memes and using word of mouth to advertise something.
* Group-based biases: everything from anti-semitism and racism to cargo cults.
* Longstanding political memes that suppress democratic notions and activity, such as "mob rule" and "republic, not a democracy."
* Programming paradigms: from structured programming and object-oriented programming to extreme programming.
* Internet phenomena: Internet slang
* Wikis: the proliferation of collaborative editing systems following the Wiki example in their multiple incarnations. Wikipedia, Wiktionary, etc.
* Moore's Law: this meme has a particularly interesting form of self-replication. The conviction that "semiconductor complexity doubles every 18 months" became considerably more than a predictive observation; it became a performance target for an entire industry once that industry extensively started to believe in the "law". Manufacturers now strive to make the next generation of semiconductor technology recreate the performance growth of the previous generation, and so maintain belief in Moore's Law. Additionally, the evolution of this meme provides details of interest. The original law described growth in terms of the number of transistors on a chip, but people - more and more -- have (wrongly) understood it as describing an increase in terms of performance. This could exemplify how a meme can mutate slowly under the pressure of its environment (partial technical understanding and simplification for use in the mainstream media).
* Consciousness and the self: Susan Blackmore theorized that a "self" merely comprises a collection of memetic stories which she calls the selfplex.
* The concept of memes itself comprises a meme. Even the idea that the concept of memes is itself a meme has become a widely-spread meme. However, the idea that the concept of memes is itself a meme is not yet particularly common as a meme. (Not to mention that, at this stage, the idea makes most people's heads hurt.)
* Anecdote: short joke story

The Memetic Lexicon lists meme-attributes compiled by Glenn Grant under a "share-alike" licence. The thoughtful examples it offers help to focus the concept for readers unfamiliar with memetic thinking. The Lexicon has circulated since the early 1990s, and evolved into its version 3.5 of its memplex (Memelex) in 2004: A Memetic Lexicon. One should keep in mind that Glenn Grant has the background of a writer of fiction rather that of an authority on memetics: many of the terms in the lexicon he simply invented as an experiment in the spread of his own self-generated memes. [4]

Common misconceptions

A very common misconception about memes represents them as very special, rare kinds of thought or as some special trick of public relations gurus. Generally, memes can comprise any piece of information that can possibly transfer between two minds — idea, thought, joke, song, dance, habit, even state of mood.

When defined broadly over some form of individual examples [as above], single memes form indexes in the mechanics of the mind's process (Ego, Superego and Id) that represent partial thoughts as best conceptually understood and thus sigilized to the recipient in the transfer.

Complete one-to-one clarity of communication would result in an exact duplicate, which does not occur as the typical result. The typical result becomes sigilized with the Id's acceptance or denial, and then applied meme drift occurs in the real time. Conflict [internal to self or external to others] can manifest quickly beyond control of the Id's process if not considered important or priority of thought itself: the ethical dilemma of meme empowerment itself.

Incorporated with the initiation and termination period of human interactions of habit, continuously encountering semi-familiar meme indexes begins to define a fully-realized meme complex — call it "human habitation" — between more than two humans.

Thus originate the constructs of culture, human bonding, unity, community, disunity, etc. Result: cultural wars begin. Understanding meme structures themselves overcomes the barrier of the unknown in the real-time meme-drift that occurs with the expression of unfamiliar ideals.

Another common misconception comes from confusion over the term gene. A gene analogous to a meme consists of any genetic information controlling a particular trait (used more in evolutionary biology). The term gene can also describe a specific region of DNA that codes for a particular protein (sometimes called a cistron and used more in molecular biology). One could conclude that if speaking of a protein, then the word would mean the same thing. However, other regions of DNA will affect the protein in addition to the DNA that codes for it.


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