Word of the Week: Meme

18 11 2007


Meme. As defined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976): “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” “Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms 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.” In this sense, chain letter components are memes.

(From Link)

A meme (pronounced [miːm] in IPA), as defined within memetic theory, comprises a theoretical unit of cultural information, the building block of cultural evolution or diffusion that propagates from one mind to another analogously to the way in which a gene propagates from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution. Multiple memes may propagate as cooperative groups called memeplexes (meme complexes).

Biologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in 1976. He gave as examples tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches.

Meme-theorists contend that memes evolve by natural selection (similarly to Darwinian biological evolution) through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influencing an individual entity’s reproductive success. So with memes, some ideas will propagate less successfully and become extinct, while others will survive, spread, and, for better or for worse, mutate. “Memeticists argue that the memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes that replicate the most effectively spread best, which allows for the possibility that successful memes may prove detrimental to their hosts.”

(From Wikipedia)

Includes Internet Meme‘s Like:

Thriller performed by prison inmates in the Philippines — Features a recreation of Michael Jackson’s hit music video, performed by prison inmates.

Numa Numa — Gary Brolsma sings along to the Romanian language dance song “Dragostea din tei” by O-Zone.

Hampster Dance — A page filled with animated GIFs of hamsters dancing, linking to other animated pages. It spawned a fictional band complete with its own CD album release.

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