The memespread project
April 8, 2004 2:19 AM   Subscribe

The memespread project. How does a meme spread? What part does MetaFilter play in the process? [via]
posted by cbrody (13 comments total)
This isn't monitoring the spreading of a meme, whatever the hell that might be considered in this case (and it's telling that whoever is behind this project doesn't define what they think a meme actually is). It's asking that you link to it. This isn't viral-meme-blogosphere-anything. It's a chain letter. All this will tell you is that lots of blogs link to lots of other blogs, and that's hardly news...
posted by humuhumu at 2:51 AM on April 8, 2004

Memes are either accidental or viral by design. (I've done a fair few of both.) I think in either case, it goes something like:

- User finds page, thinks it's cool or interesting, and links to it
- Someone else visits page, thinks it's cool or interesting, and links to it too
- Repeat step 2

Rocket science it ain't. The interesting thing with memes, to my mind, isn't how they spread - it's the kind of content that makes them viral to begin with. What kind of things capture the imagination of the blogging world and cause them to forward it on.

Of course, as soon as someone works out a hard and fast rule for that, we'll be swamped with viral advertising and the whole thing will die. Ho hum.
posted by bwerdmuller at 3:02 AM on April 8, 2004

Isn't the whole concept of memes kinda played out? 1997 called and they want their social theory back.

Really, memes are just a high fallutin' way of saying that people spread ideas they find appealing. It seems to me, the Tipping Point is probably the best examination of how that stuff works.
posted by ph00dz at 4:14 AM on April 8, 2004

The thing about memes that was interesting and new, I thought, was the idea that they (the memes) are responsible for their own spreading. You say: "people spread ideas they find appealing," but the appeal of an idea is contained within the idea itself. So, with the "meme" concept, ideas were newly viewable as active agents, as we view genes - responsible for their own propagation or lack thereof. People, conscious minds, in turn, became simply a medium for the propagation of memes.

There is a curious and relatively modern self-reflexivity in the concept. As there is in this very thread - what part does Me-Fi play in spreading the meme, asks the FPP as it's spreading the meme.
posted by yoz420 at 4:37 AM on April 8, 2004

I have an interest in meme-spreading because I'd like to see people in the US of A using the write in option this election season and writing in the President choice they find less odious as President, then as the VP put in the guy/gal/trained mammal you'd want to see running the country. You get to vote, send a message, screw with the diebold voting machines, et la.

Alas, this 'memeproject' is more "See who will link to me!" then meme. So I must look elsewhere for an idea on how to spread the idea of the write-in.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:05 AM on April 8, 2004

Can someone define "meme" for me? It's been bugging me for ages. It seems to me as if it's bullshitese for "funny picture"/ joke etc which can be much more easily spread now people have email etc, that's all.
posted by Pericles at 5:41 AM on April 8, 2004

The term "meme" was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. In the book, he writes about how genes have the biological imperative to replicate and that's what fuels evolution. It's survival of the fittest on a small, small scale, where genes look for other genes that will help them survive to pass on, well, more genes.

Memes are ideas that, like genes, seek to survive and replicate, sometimes even evolving into new ideas.

Of course, this is all based on a class I took years and years ago, so could be out of date or only of B+ quality. You can see the chapter where Dawkins first discusses memes here.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:58 AM on April 8, 2004

robocop is bleeding = best user name EVAR. please don't get mad if I turn it into an album title!
posted by mcsweetie at 7:22 AM on April 8, 2004

Heh. Thanks. The name was developed after months of focus group testing (i.e., me bugging my fiance - strangely enough, I cemented the name two days before signups were opened).

If you want to take advantage of the months of labor that Team Robocop undertook, that's fine with me! What style of music?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:00 AM on April 8, 2004

Here's the Wikipedia entry on Memes -
posted by crayfish at 8:02 AM on April 8, 2004

This theory though, while appealing on some level, was not really put forward as a metaphor for how to think about how ideas spread. (See Rushkoff's Media Virus, for example.) Rather, it attempted to apply some kind of scientific underpinning to how this stuff work. The problem is, no real mechanism of action was really ever offerred. How are these memes supposed to be received by the brain?

While someone like Gladwell could really capture the nature of the spread of ideas pretty well with historical examples and predictions of outcomes, Dawkins and the gang of mid-to-late 90's Wired readers never really came close.
posted by ph00dz at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2004

Yeah, I read the wikipedia piece last week, and am still baffled. I guess i'm just not post-modern enough to believe that ideas themselves want to replicate themselves rather than people just say "look! this is cool" to their mates.
posted by Pericles at 8:55 AM on April 8, 2004

You don't have to believe that ideas want to replicate themselves. But if you pretend that they do, you can get some new insights on how they propagate, just as certain aspects of biological evolution are illuminated by pretending that genes want to replicate themselves.
posted by kindall at 10:47 AM on April 8, 2004

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