virus: definitions of "meme"

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Sun, 14 Sep 1997 14:27:29 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 13 Sep 1997, Brett Lane Robertson wrote:

> The term meme has not been definied to my satisfaction on this list. I have

[snipped: Brett's description of meme behaviour, which strikes me, insofar
as I understand it, as a theory about meme evolution rather than a
definition of the term]

> If Eva (or anyone) can present a better definition of memes, then--by
> means--please do!

>From Dawkins, the originator of the word "meme":

a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation....Examples of
memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making
pots of or building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the
gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes
propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a
process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a
scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his
colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures.
If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from
brain to brain. [_The Selfish Gene_, 1976, p. 206]

and from Richard Brodie:

A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences
events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.
[_Virus of the Mind_, 1996, p. 32]

getting back to basics