virus: Re: sociological change

Ken Pantheists (
Sat, 28 Dec 1996 05:34:22 +0000

Alex wrote:
On the contrary, I /can/ communicate what its like to be any or all of
the above just as I can communicate what its like to be a soldier
fighting for galactic peace on the outer rim or a sorcerer-apprectice in
a world that never was.

In order for you to communicate two things have to happen. You need to
give the message and the message has tobe received.

What you can do is lie about what it's like to be any of those people.

The credibility of your lie will depend on how many people are willing
to be swept up in it. (welcome to the first virus-acting workshop) ;)

You could pretend to be a galactic warrior and that lie would have
credibility due to its sheer fancy.

You could pretend to be hamlet and that would have credibility because
you are following a script written by an acknowledged playwright and we
trust that shakespeare's words are "truthful" in that they teach us
something about the human condition and about revenge. (the "shakespeare
was an excellent writer" meme)

You can even pretend to be the guy with aids or the catholic woman
waiting for an abortion. Now here is where is gets sticky. How iron-clad
is your presentation? How are you communicating this experience? Are you
allowing the audience to see you assemble the "performance" by having
them come to the theatre, read a program with your name in it as one of
the actors-- if you were writing, you would assemble your performance by
saying "If I were a cotholic woman..." You can even state " I AM A
COTHOLIC WOMAN" (a blatant lie) and it would still have credibility if
it occurs in the context of theatrical conventions or *style*.

But, of course, there are real catholic women and real guys with AIDS
who can poke holes in your credibility. So if you say something
outrageous and absolutely wrong-- basically putting words in their
mouths-- they will try to "take back" their identity from you.

What would be even more outrageous is if you lied to all your friends,
by telling them that you have aids and how bummed out you are about it.

(You can usually get away with saying anything about cats-- Andrew Lloyd
Webber did. It is unlikely they will demonstrate in the ticket lines for

Our media makes it so easy to manipulate facades and to appropriate
experience through mimesis that this ownership of identity has become a
real issue. Many structures of power are built on the foundations of
"us" and "them". "Them" is always a constructed other-- made from these
appropriated facades. As more and more people gain the ability to inject
their experiences into the "mediaflow", more and more are answering back
to this construction. Perhaps this is why we are so sensitive today
about political correctness. (overly sensitive in many cases)

Today we have an aesthetic of the authentic. Videos are shot with a
jerky motion to give the sensation of real on-the-moment video coverage.

So as you communicate the experiences of these others (the guy with aids
or the catholic woman) you will likely want it to appear authentic. You
will use your powers of abstration to form an idea of these experiences
and they might serve a limited purpose-- because they are generalized.

They will not hold a candle to the detail of the real experiences of a
real person who has lived for years as that person and has put his or
her whole life into creating that persona.

Good actors are good because they create these lies with incredible

The long and the short of it-- You can comminicate to a limited degree
an imagined experience, but that communication will always be focussed
through the lens of your local experience. Ever see white actors playing
"indians" in movies? Isn't it just pathetic? Why do we know this?
Because the "indians" have talked back to those images and, once those
messages sink in, we can see the power structures.

I have always seen memetics as a visualization of these competing
"modules" of communicated experience (imaginary or authentic), these
constructions of body, time, status, place, wealth, gender...

I mean, a five second commercial can shoot images containing all of
that- essentially creating *your* body, status and wealth and *you
buying the product*. Ideologies are commodities-- you buy a whole set of
visible values when you buy a BodyShop japanese brown rice face scrub.

This is what memetics is best at explaining. Why *do* you have that
brown rice face scrub, really?

The value in doing a memetic breakdown of canine society would be the
same as that of studying chimpanzees and gorillas for clues to human
socialization; start small, work up. We can build neural networks
/roughly/ as complex as planterians (flatworms) now, in fact, modeling a
flatworm's responses was one of the early aims of neural network
technology. Start small to build up.

i don't see memetics as a key to human socialization. I think it has
more to do with the abstraction of our experience. And I don't think
animals perform these abstractions-- they are exactly what they are.
That's what makes them so calming to be around-- why they are good
companions to have in our private homes where we want to filter out all
that abstraction and be who *we* are. Pets cue you to be you. They don't
give special credence to you "as the executive" or you "as the sports
car driver"-- they just lick your face.

What do you want to build?

Why are you proposing that it be built?

Is it not a *representation* of a memesphere? Because it isn't a
memesphere, just a detailed lie written by the few programmers who would
build the network.

I know this analogy sounds pompious, but I'll say it anyway-- it's a bit
like building a disneyland ride of Ancient Greece and then escavating it
for archeological information on Ancient Greece.

  Ken Pantheists