Re: virus: Will the real meme please stand up.

Brett Lane Robertson (
Fri, 08 Aug 1997 16:50:50 -0500

Prof. Tim,

What about" <Nike>,< We Really Move our Tail For You>"? Is there a pattern
where <Nike>, the shoe company, can become associated with <We Really Move
our Tail For You> (from Continental Airlines)? Perhaps, with an ad
campaign; but, with equal success? What I'm trying to get at is the pattern
which already exists in our minds concerning shoes and "doing it", first.
And of what sort are these patterns, second.

So first, there is a pattern which says shoes are a component to activity,
"doing". I say the meme is <do it>, there may be component of this meme
which answers "ok, let me get my shoes on first" (maybe a realization of our
achilles heel, a universal "can't do" based on an evolutionary weakness).
Maybe, the meme is "<with shoes> we can <do it>". Nike happens to find the
weak part of this meme <with shoes> and inserts <Nike>. The new structure
is similar enough to the meme to allow for a temporary
association...*temporary*. Without continued reinforcement this meme would
revert back to its more basic form. The association between Nike and
"moving our tails" would probably be even less successful and would require
even more reinforcement (behavior modification, or something external to the
meme which is required in addition to its viral nature in order that it be
successful). *External*, I still say that the meme is <do it>, or even
<do>, and "Nike" is just a word associated with this meme. And, who
(besides you) has added the additional requirement that somehow a meme
requires EITHER "Building on existing structures" OR "trying to create new
ones" (Prof. Tim below)? That is like a genetic engineer saying that the
definition of a gene is contingent on our being able to do genetic
engineering and/or creating new life forms.

As to whether memes are abstract concepts. I say they are "structures",
like chemical structures, benzene "rings", "buckey balls"; which is not to
say that they are limited to the level of chemistry but that they are
natural patterns in which things tend to organize. For our purposes,
thinking about memes as logic "circuits", might be useful
(if->then->else->not....whatever)--which is not to say that they *do* or
*don't* have physical counterparts (yes, neural patterns or somesuch).
Mostly, I guess, I am opposed to thinking that things are "abstract", since
"abstraction" in it's most pure definition cannot be made "concrete" (and I
see little use for something that has no concrete basis in reality--but I
think of numbers and wonder what concrete basis math has as opposed to its
concrete *application*). Sure, lets avoid flames and focus on
function--or lets brave the flames and focus on form...I have my shoes on.


At 11:42 AM 8/8/97 -0700, you wrote:

>On Thu, 7 Aug 1997, Brett Lane Robertson wrote:

>> "Nike" on the other hand may or may not be relevant to my life. If I am an
>> African villager (example), "just do it" would have a good chance to infect
>> me..."Nike" would not. The content of the jingle--"Nike"--must be
>> transported. Is not viable. Is not a meme

>Lets get this straight. The meme *is* <Nike--just do it>. <Just do it>
>has been around for a long time on its own. The new meme seeks to link
>(and has quite sucessfully) "Nike" to this phase. Building on existing
>structures is much more effective than trying to create new ones. (Welcome
>to the wonderful world of Post-Modern Art!) Now, as a result of an
>effective advertising campaign, "just do it" invokes "Nike" in the mind.

>If an African villager was exposed to this same advertising (unlikely)
>they would develop this same link, regardless of what they thought this
>"Nike" thingy was.

>-Prof. Tim

Rabble Sonnet Retort
She had lost the art of conversation, but
not, unfortunately, the power of speech.

George Bernard Shaw