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meme, memeticFor me, the word “meme” is basically a synonym for “idea”, but with emphasis on the fact that ideas are transmitted from person to person. It is analogous to the biological term “gene”. The analogy can be used to form other words, such as the adjective “memetic”, “of memes”, corresponding to “genetic”.
We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’, or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.
Additional examples and other related information can be found in the essays listed under memes.
There's one very important thing about memes I forgot to mention. Memes, like genes, are selfish—they exist and propagate not for our benefit, but for their own. Here's how Dawkins put it.
What we have not previously considered is that a cultural trait may have evolved in the way that it has, simply because it is advantageous to itself.
The fact that memes are selfish may be just a consequence of the fact that memes are replicators, but I thought I'd mention it anyway, since it's very much a part of how I think about them.
The word “meme” is commonplace now, but with a meaning that's a tiny subset of the true meaning. A funny picture or picture element or phrase or phrase template (snowclone) that people like to copy and reuse is definitely a meme, but memes can be so much more than that! For one thing, memes don't have to have such a rigid structure. You can get the idea “pie in the face” from any picture of anyone getting hit with a pie; there doesn't have to be a single canonical image. For another, memes don't have to be transmitted via pictures; pictures just work especially well because vision is such a powerful channel. (That's why a picture is worth a thousand words!) Most importantly, memes don't have to be copied because they're funny (or compelling, or advantageous to themselves), they can also be copied because they're useful! There are memes for how to change a flat tire, memes for how to make an omelet, memes for all kinds of good things. Funny pictures are just one particular kind of viral meme.
Another View (Free Time)
Classification of Knowledge
Do Words Control Thought?
Memes vs. Ideas
Positive and Negative
Some Memes (Rubik's Cube)
Some Memes (Tempest)
Too Much Is Eventually Enough
@ March (2000)
o December (2001)
o November (2012)