Time for a meme…

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on memes and I think that the discussion lacks both focus and systematics.  There is no proof for a meme or its existence other than the fact that we (humans) seem to use them for the purpose of conveying meaning to other people.  Many meme conversations entail discussion that sounds similar to genetics, however, I prefer a different type of discussion because I would like to structure these dialogues in order to give them a sense of direction (which is not to say that what has preceded me is indeed directionless), but this exercise helps me—in the most selfish way possible—to both constrain and construct a dialogue that leads to other cogent reflections.  It serves as both starting point and stratagem.

I see major categories for memes in addition to major criteria that constitute their existence.  Speaking, first of all, of the constitution of memes, they are constructions of the human mind and, as such, they are relatable only to those things that pertain to human experience.  Secondly, memes can be singular or they can stack into larger structures I have read of described as memeplexes.  Most of our popular music today would be described as a series of memeplexes due to the fact that they often layer in memes that are both musical and pictorial while uniting (in addition) concrete text.  Third, memes are skewed to an audience.  Finally, memes come in various strengths which is sometimes (but not always) constrained by the type of meme they are.

Let us begin with a discussion of category since it seems like the proper place to begin a discussion of this nature.

Memes can be:

1)    Macro memes (relative/nearly universal to all cultures)

2)    Micro memes (relative only to a specific world/culture)

3)    Pseudo memes (external representations of another culture yet possessed of no signifying correlation in the eyes of members of the culture being represented)

These are the largest categories possible for memes to inhabit, and I call these categories Meme Planes of Existence.

Within each of these categories there are modes that the memes apply to in human life.

1)     Media Memes

2)    Textual Memes

3)    Musical Memes

4)    Origination/Essential Memes

5)    Tradition/Heritage Memes

A pertinent question to ask in this area of time would be “How do memes come into existence?”  That’s a valid question and my statement is the answer.  We can only create memes out of the things that matter to our existence as humans, things we validate in our use and reuse.  We relate to the meme and then in being signed to (signified in our lives by) it we create memes to speak for our understandings of life.  Therefore the answer to that question is kith to the idea that we understand ourselves and we understand the communities we live in.  Those understandings are the construction of an identity and from there the identity is represented by the memes we select, the collective ratification of a meme is mass validation, which has never been easier than in the present with the advent of the current technologically connective state of human existence.

For this blog, I’ll finish with the idea that anything within the categories above relative/related to human existence can be a meme.  There are a few examples I could cite, but I have one I prefer to begin with in particular.  Let me begin with a Micro meme: relative to the culture of my family, the little porcelain angel I have had since I was 3 is a precious thing to me.  I protect it because it used to be an ornament that I broke.  The angel means a great deal to me because I see in it a connection with my past, with a time that was beautiful, and a connection with my family.  The little angel has always been with me since that time and I keep her safe because she’s so tiny that she could be easily lost.  She cannot protect me.  I do not pray to her, and her status as an angel is less important to me than the fact that human hands gave her into my tiny 3-year-old fingers.  It’s one of the only relics of my infancy that I still have.  This meme falls into the micro category because it is relative only to myself.  It is a tradition/essential meme because it has a quality of deep meaning while being tied to traditions or memories of my family.  It is something that if someone were to enter my house and see it sitting on a surface they would never guess what it means or how I feel about the ornament.  They could not guess its age and neither its appearance nor its construction would tell of its value to me.  It would pass by unnoticed.  The angel will be one of those small things that will pass into the hands of either one of my children or a niece or nephew… Or perhaps it will not travel to the end of my time with me.  Perhaps between now and the end of my life something will take the little angel from me, and this loss would cause me sorrow, but her memory would walk on with me.  The meme here is deeply ingrained in my identity such that if ever I were to lose her, she would not pass on to other of my family and live on as a meme retaining some form of traditional meaning for them, but she would survive with me until I am gone, and now she will live on in the minds of all who have read of her.  Indeed, even as you’ve been reading this you have been searching your mind for things that you hold/might still have that are memes in this way to you.  My angel is now a meme in your mind for the things you have that are signed to you in this way.

Do memes exist?  Well… As humans exist, and we assign valuation and validation to objects/images/sounds and experiences then it is not even a matter of question that memes exist because they constitute a representation of our selves, the meanings we attribute to the lives we live and the way we live them.  Additionally, they serve as the sources/store-houses of our signification to each other and to the rest of our lives.  I will write further on memes because I am fond of it, but this post is to set the stage for those further discussions.  All of my categories and assignations of memes in this blog are original terms that I have invented to carry out the discussion.  I have read widely of other understandings/interpretations of memes and extrapolating upon those readings I have come to these ideas, or perhaps the ideas came to me as I appear a rather stationary being behind my computer even while feeling as though I journeyed nights and days of reading to be here in my mind.


~ by Rebecca Erickson on January 2, 2012.

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