June 12, 2001
6:56 AM   Subscribe

Memes are past their prime.

Richard Dawkins first coined the term meme towards the end of his 1976 book The Selfish Gene initially as an instructive analogy and a way of illustrating the concept of replicators. Memes were just like genes but they replicated themselves through minds and culture rather than cells and bodies. Of course, the meme, like any good self-replicating idea, caught on and spread like wildfire and has been used to illuminate studies into subjects as diverse as the memetics of music and the memetics of suicide. There is an alternate view however that sees the grand project of memetics as completely misguided.
posted by lagado (13 comments total)
I have to ask a slightly OT question. Is it pronounced meeh-meeh, or maaymm?
posted by machaus at 7:19 AM on June 12, 2001

posted by rodii at 7:21 AM on June 12, 2001

posted by corpse at 7:40 AM on June 12, 2001

fwiw, this was on nologo last week.
posted by kliuless at 7:42 AM on June 12, 2001

Despite my handle, I've always been baffled by the meme totalists who've attempted to turn what is basically a particularly illuminating metaphor into a full-on theory of cultural evolution. These folks find themselves on the same tenuous ground as the defenders of the 'invisible dragon in the garage', unable to prove or disprove their theories.

The idea of memes seems useful to me in that it gives us a way to speak casually about cultural evolution and some of the rather abstract ideas that it implies. Something seems very natural in talking about ideas as simply mind virii and certainly there are cases where similar behaviors can be observed as such.
posted by BoatMeme at 7:59 AM on June 12, 2001

My English prof from last term is a semiotics/memetics expert, and he pronounces it "meem". So yeah, I'm sticking with that.

I don't really have anything to add here, but, I love my memepool t-shirt.
posted by Succa at 8:43 AM on June 12, 2001

This whole "memes are past their prime" meme is being perpetuated by the Panel of International Marketing Professionals syndicate. The global marketing consortium see a lot of value in memetics as a tool for selling nonessential consumer goods, but know that as long as people are identifying memes, they won't achieve their true potential as marketing vectors.

The "meem" thing is being pushed by the same group. I say we all pronounce it "mehm" just to show them we can't be controlled.

Also, I think that Tuesday should be Ice Cream Day.

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 9:46 AM on June 12, 2001

And don't forget the pantomimic purists who call themselves "mime" and pronounce it "meem".

Dang French, they have a different word for everything
posted by briank at 11:29 AM on June 12, 2001

/me registers plasticmetameme.com...

(oh the possibilities are endless!)
posted by jcterminal at 11:54 AM on June 12, 2001

Have to agree, BoatMeme (cool name and explanation btw). Basically it's a fun analogy which has been taken way, way too seriously by some.

Still I have to admit there's something to thinking about memes. Your name made me think about the invention of the first boat. I'm sure that idea spread extremely rapidly by immitation along the coasts and waterways. It's appealing to think of it in the abstract as a self-replicating boat meme.
posted by lagado at 8:48 PM on June 12, 2001

This is not surprising. I have a linguist friend that knows more about the debate then I. I am currently reading Dawkin's Climbing Mount Improbable and enjoying it so far.
posted by john at 9:44 PM on June 12, 2001

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 ,8P   Yb.    YP Y8 Y8bY'
  Yb_ __`Y      o8'   8'
    \\_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ \/
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posted by iceberg273 at 10:36 AM on July 10, 2001

posted by lagado at 4:57 PM on July 10, 2001

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