[Fwd: virus: Is the term "meme" necessary?]

Ken Pantheists (kenpan@axionet.com)
Tue, 14 May 1996 18:36:40 +0000

To Tad:

I think richard's asking you if you knew what a meme is can be explained
by looking at his signature.

He signs his e-mail with "> Do you know what a "meme" is?

The link goes to a page about his book. I think it is an invitation/tag.

Richard Brodie wrote:
....when we use the word "meme" we usually are talking
> about a concept, but the memetic model leads us to think about
> interesting things like how well the concept replicates to other minds,
> how it got in my mind in the first place, and so on.

I have no trouble with the word meme. From what I know of the idea (I'm
learning more every day) I can see how it allows us to address the
context, the engineering and the effort put into building some

This is extremely important in an age where electronic media presents a
seamless "look" of cander and "on the moment" presentation. Many people
are unaware of the amount of engineering that goes into one bit of
information that is transmitted into our imaginations and affects us
(probably for the rest of our lives).

I find a kinship with people who are interested in 'Memes" because the
material addresses the levels of construction and manipulation in media
and information, receptivity and and (most imporatantly) thinking this
way cracks to door to seeing what information does, who it serves. who
it empowers and who it disempowers.

Funny thing. Just yesterday, when I was reading my e-mail fom Virus, the
Wizard of Oz was on downstairs, my housemate was watching it. I had to
chuckle when the scene came in the throne room where the wizard said, "I
am the great OZ-- Ignore the man behind the curtain!".

> The study of how and why memes evolve and spread will be one of the
> driving forces of social change over the next century; that's why I
> train myself to use the word "meme" and to identify them on a daily
> basis.

The significance of the "what word do we use?" debate escapes me and
will continue to do so. Meme, Concept, pshaw! They just DO different

Anecdote: When I'm teaching a first year acting class I give my students
an audition assignment. They have to prepare a monologue of audition
length. (2 minutes). Invariably about one third of the class will come
up and ask. Can I do a monologue from a film? (I have since figured out
that they believe a film monologue will be easy to find- just rent the
video and watch TV. No reading needed.) I try to tell them the
difference between a film monologue and a theatre monologue. They don't
see the fact that they are two completely different mediums with two
completely different sets of rules. Eventually I just say go ahead. Find
your film monologue.

None of them can. A film monologue of longer than 25 seconds is a nearly
impossible find. If they happen to find one that's around the 55 sec.
mark they start to work it up for performance and find even more
difficulty. Film is a visual medium designed around the flexibility of
the montage. It does not happen "in time" it happens in frames of time.

So when I assign a monologue I use the term Theatre Monologue, because
it *does* a different thing.

When I talk about this list I say it's a list about memes, because it
does a different thing than if I said, "It's a list about concepts."

Ken Pantheists