virus: Greetings

Glenn Grant (pawn@CAM.ORG)
Wed, 12 Feb 1997 03:17:17 -0500 (EST)

Greetings fellow memoids,

This is my first post here; I've just recently discovered the CoV, and I
must say I'm rather "chuffed", as the Brits say. I was doing the
narcissistic Web thing: running my name through Alta Vista to see how my
memes were metastatizing. (In my defense, I'll point out that I'd just
received e-mail from a stranger looking for an old friend named "Glenn
Grant" and wondering if I was him. This made me wonder just how many
dopplegangers I had, out there on the Net.)

>> > Jake asked:
>> > P.S. I stumbled on memetics after researching political theory. How did
>> > you all get intrested?

I first came across memetics in Douglas Hofstadter's _Metamagical Themas_
in 1985. For a long while the concept just percolated in my head,
precipitating into strange stillborn ideas in my notebooks, such as: "If
memes are like genes, what are the memetic equivalents of 'bases',
'introns', etc?"

In 1987, Whole Earth Review published Keith Henson's article on memetics,
so I suspected that the concept was about to go mainstream - on the
principle that if something really interesting showed up in WER, it was
likely to appear on the cover of TIME, two to five years later. (That issue
of WER, in fact, was the "Signal" issue on the new information culture; it
lead directly to the Whole Earth Signal Catalogue, which lead indirectly to
WIRED magazine.)

Henson's article spurred me to organise my thinking about memes (partly
because I disagreed with certain of his interpretations), and the result
was my Memetic Lexicon, an amalgam of ideas from Hofstadter, Henson, and
others, with my own additions. It was written in a youthful burst of
enthusiam during my first year in Creative Writing at Concordia University,
here in Montreal. For a while, I handed copies around to friends, and with
their input revised it somewhat. Then I sent it off to Mark Frauenfelder,
who published it in his infamous neurozine, bOING bOING. It seemed
appropriate to ShareRight the Lexicon, rather than copyright it, in the
hopes that it might self-replicate. A later, expanded edition also appeared
in VIRUS 23 magazine, from Red Deer, Alberta (of all places). Then my
room-mate uploaded it to somebody's cyberculture ftp site, in around 1990
or '91.

A VIRUS 23 reader in Calgary was actually inspired to organize a
"recombinant academic conference, Pagan ritual, rave dance club and
post-cyberpunk science fiction convention" called MEMETICON '92 (to which,
oddly, I was not invited). The Lexicon was reprinted yet again in the
program book. This was getting just too weird...

I've done a few panels and presentations on memetics at SF conventions,
most successfully at Readercon in Boston (in 1994), after which the Lexicon
was printed in a somebody's science fiction APA.

I finally acquired a modem in 1994 and started Websurfing. Imagine my
amazement when I discovered that someone had done an html version of the
Lexicon and posted it on the Principia Cybernetica Web in Germany! Geez,
the thing was still actively spreading itself. And now I find the CoV and
other such sites, not only linking to the Lexicon but hosting mirrors of
it, and expanding on it in mailing lists like this one. Wow.

Good thing I'd never suspected it would have such longevity, or I'd have
become too self-conscious when writing it. I might've gotten too serious
with it, and made it less convoluted. Reading it today I think some parts
are far too condensed, or clotted with difficult language, but maybe that's
part of its appeal. It expects a certain level of intelligence on the
reader's part.

If anybody has seen the Lexicon in other places, especially publications
outside of North America, or in other languages, I'd be very interested to
hear about it.

Enough about me and my hopeful monster. I look forward to participating in
your weird and Dougly list. ["Dougly", BTW, is the invention of Ron
Hale-Evans in his old neurozine, Singularity; it means "Similar to, or in
the mode of, Douglas Hofstadter."]



-----------------------Glenn Grant-----------------------
Web: <>
"That which does not kill us makes us stranger."
-- Trevor Goodchild