The Mimetic Lexicon
is presented in the left and continued in the right sidebar of this page.

Glenn Grant (1990): Mimetic Lexicon, in:
F. Heylighen,
C. Joslyn &
V. Turchin, eds.:
Principia Cybernetica Web
(Principia Cybernetica,

Dangerous to itself. Highly auto-toxic memes are usually self-limiting because they promote the destruction of their hosts (such as the Jim Jones meme; any military indoctrination meme-complex; any "martyrdom" meme). (GMG) (See exo-toxic.)

The part of a meme-complex that promises to benefit the host (usually in return for replicating the complex). The bait usually justifies, but does not explicitly urge, the replication of a meme-complex. (Donald Going, quoted by Hofstadter.) Also called the reward co-meme. (In many religions, "Salvation" is the bait, or promised reward; "Spread the Word" is the hook. Other common bait co-memes are "Eternal Bliss", "Security", "Prosperity", "Freedom".) (See hook; threat; infection strategy.)

Since a person can only be infected with and transmit a finite number of memes, there is a limit to their belief space (Henson). Memes evolve in competition for niches in the belief-space of individuals and societies.

Any attempt to hinder the spread of a meme by eliminating its vectors. Hence, censorship is analogous to attempts to halt diseases by spraying insecticides. Censorship can never fully kill off an offensive meme, and may actually help to promote the meme's most virulent strain, while killing off milder forms.

A meme which has symbiotically co-evolved with other memes, to form a mutually-assisting meme-complex. Also called a symmeme. (GMG)

A sociotype of an auto-toxic meme-complex, composed of membots and/or memeoids. (GMG) Characteristics of cults include: self-isolation of the infected group (or at least new recruits); brainwashing by repetitive exposure (inducing dependent mental states); genetic functions discouraged (through celibacy, sterilization, devalued family) in favor of replication (proselytizing); and leader-worship ("personality cult"). (Henson.)

Currently without human hosts. The ancient Egyptian hieroglyph system and the Gnostic Gospels are examples of "dead" schemes which lay dormant for millennia in hidden or untranslatable texts, waiting to re-activate themselves by infecting modern archeologists. Some obsolete memes never become entirely dormant, such as Phlogiston theory, which simply mutated from a "belief" into a "quaint historical footnote."

"A tune or melody which infects a population rapidly." (Rheingold); a hit song. (Such as: "Don't Worry, Be Happy".) (< German, ohrwurm=earworm.)

Dangerous to others. Highly exo-toxic memes promote the destruction of persons other than their hosts, particularly those who are carriers of rival memes. (Such as: Nazism, the Inquisition, Pol Pot.) (See meme-allergy.) (GMG)

The part of a meme-complex that urges replication. The hook is often most effective when it is not an explicit statement, but a logical consequence of the memeUs content. (Hofstadter) (See bait, threat.)

A person who has been successfully infected by a meme. See infection, membot, memeoid.

The realm of memetic evolution, as the biosphere is the realm of biological evolution. The entire memetic ecology. (Hofstadter.) The health of an ideosphere can be measured by its memetic diversity.

Anything that tends to reduce a personUs memetic immunity. Common immuno-depressants are: travel, disorientation, physical and emotional exhaustion, insecurity, emotional shock, loss of home or loved ones, future shock, culture shock, isolation stress, unfamiliar social situations, certain drugs, loneliness, alienation, paranoia, repeated exposure, respect for Authority, escapism, and hypnosis (suspension of critical judgment). Recruiters for cults often target airports and bus terminals because travelers are likely to be subject to a number of these immuno-depressants. (GMG) (See cult.)

See vaccime. (GMG)

1. Successful encoding of a meme in the memory of a human being. A memetic infection can be either active or inactive. It is inactive if the host does not feel inclined to transmit the meme to other people. An active infection causes the host to want to infect others. Fanatically active hosts are often membots or memeoids. A person who is exposed to a meme but who does not remember it (consciously or otherwise) is not infected. (A host can indeed be unconsciously infected, and even transmit a meme without conscious awareness of the fact. Many societal norms are transmitted this way.) (GMG)

2. Some memeticists have used `infection' as a synonym for `belief' (i.e. only believers are infected, non-believers are not). However, this usage ignores the fact that people often transmit memes they do not "believe in." Songs, jokes, and fantasies are memes which do not rely on "belief" as an infection strategy.

infection strategy
Any memetic strategy which encourages infection of a host. Jokes encourage infection by being humorous, tunes by evoking various emotions, slogans and catch-phrases by being terse and continuously repeated. Common infection strategies are "Villain vs. victim", "Fear of Death", and "Sense of Community". In a meme-complex, the bait co-meme is often central to the infection strategy. (See replication strategy; mimicry.) (GMG)

A person whose entire life has become subordinated to the propagation of a meme, robotically and at any opportunity. (Such as many Jehovah's Witnesses,
Krishnas, and Scientologists.) Due to internal competition, the most vocal and extreme membots tend to rise to top of their sociotypeUs hierarchy. A self-destructive membot is a memeoid. (GMG)

(pron. 'meem') A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by analogy with "gene".) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic. (Wheelis, quoted in Hofstadter.) (See meme-complex).

A form of intolerance; a condition which causes a person to react in an unusually extreme manner when exposed to a specific semiotic stimulus, or `meme-allergen.' Exo-toxic meme-complexes typically confer dangerous meme-allergies on their hosts. Often, the actual meme-allergens need not be present, but merely perceived to be present, to trigger a reaction. Common meme-allergies include homophobia, paranoid anti-Communism, and porno phobia. Common forms of meme-allergic reaction are censorship, vandalism, belligerent verbal abuse, and physical violence. (GMG)

A set of mutually-assisting memes which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship. Religious and political dogmas, social movements, artistic styles, traditions and customs, chain letters, paradigms, languages, etc. are meme-complexes. Also called an m-plex, or scheme (Hofstadter). Types of co-memes commonly found in a scheme are called the: bait; hook; threat; and vaccime. A successful scheme commonly has certain attributes: wide scope (a paradigm that explains much); opportunity for the carriers to participate and contribute; conviction of its self-evident truth (carries Authority); offers order and a sense of place, helping to stave off the dread of meaninglessness. (Wheelis, quoted by Hofstadter.)

Continued at top right.
Click here.

Friday, 17 September 2004
[15 December 2002]

<<< The Meme >>>
Excerpts and notes


Excerpt source:
Silby, Brent. (2000)
What is a Meme?
Reference cited:
Silby, Brent. (2000)
"The Evolution of Technology: Exposing the Myth of Creative Design"

[A] meme is the smallest idea that can copy itself while remaining self contained and intact... Memes are essentially sets of instructions that can be followed to produce behavior. Instructions can be encoded in...:

1.       musical notation

2.       written text

3.       visible (or vocal) action

4.       the neural structure of the brain

5.       digitized structures in a computer

Cf. Oxford English Dictionary (1998) definition and explication by Susan Blackmore (2002), below.

Richard Dawkins first came up with the idea of a meme in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene". Essentially, memes are ideas that evolve according to the same principles that govern biological evolution. Think about all the ideas that you have in your head right now. They are all memes, and they all came from somewhere. Some of them will have come from friends and some will have come from the internet or television. Examples of memes are musical tunes, jokes, trends, fashions, catch phrases, and car designs. Now, the memes that inhabit your mind are in competition with all the other memes in the memepool (the collection of all existing memes). This means that they are all competing to get themselves copied into other people's minds. Some of these memes do quite well. Every time you whistle your favorite tune or utter a useful catch phrase, you are facilitating the spread of those memes. Every time you wear something that is "in fashion" you are helping the idea of that fashion enter other people's minds. Consider the first four notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony, or the "Happy Birthday" song. These are ideas that inhabit our minds and have been very successful at replicating. Not only have these memes found their way into literally millions of minds, they have also managed to leave copies of themselves on paper, in books, on audiotape, on compact disks, and in computer hard-drives (Silby 2000).

There is a limited amount of memetic storage space on this planet, so only the best memes manage to implant themselves. Memes that are good at replicating tend to leave more copies of themselves in minds and in other mediums such as books. Memes that are not so good at replicating tend to die out. We can imagine what sorts of memes have become extinct. Ancient songs that were once sung and never written down are one example. Another example is the many stories that were once told but have since slipped into oblivion. A Story is a vast collection of memes that have come to rely on each other for replication. Such a structure is known as a memeplex. Stories are memeplexes that are in direct competition with other memeplexes. If a story replicates through story getting told and read by people, then it will survive. If it stops getting read, it will become extinct. Libraries are full of memetic fossils in the form of books that contain a multitude of ideas that are never looked at (Silby 2000).



Excerpt source:
Henrik Bjarneskans,
Bjarne Grønnevik &
Anders Sandberg (2000):
"The Lifecycle of Memes", in:
Svenska Transhumanist Förbundet
Reference cited:
Hofstadter, D. R. (1985), Metamagical Themas (1985/96)
This excerpt omits detailed descriptions of phases in the life cycle of a meme, but provides several useful insights. The final link presents a graphic which illustrates the full cycle.

Defining Memes
The meme concept is somewhat slippery to define, and there is an multitude of definitions ranging from the very wide to the very narrow. The definition of meme we will use in this essay is

A meme is a (cognitive) information-structure able to replicate using human hosts and to influence their behaviour to promote replication.

This is a somewhat strict definition, since it excludes many structures able to replicate without influencing host behaviour or using non-human hosts such as chimpanzees, dolphins and computers. It can be seen as a subset of the more general memes described by Dawkins. Memes do not only influence behaviour to promote replication, but many of the most successful memes have other side-effects (for example, being able to invoke various emotions) or promote their replication by being useful or through other features (like parasiting on other memes, e.g. parodies and imitations); using a biological analogy one could say symbiotic memes spread mainly using their usefulness, while parasitic memes compel the host to spread them. This compulsion can be more or less subtle, ranging from explicit orders like in chain letters ("Send ten copies of this letter to your friends") to implicit influences that link with our attitudes like the "Save the whales" meme described in (Hofstadter 1985, p. 55).

It is quite common that memes are confused with ideas/thoughts. Both are cognitive structures, but an idea is not self-replicating and is spread passively (i.e. for extrinsic reasons) if it is spread beyond its initial host at all. The difference is sometimes hazy; the idea "Isn't it time for us to eat?" can easily spread in a small group, but will not spread well outside the group and will disappear once the question is settled, while a meme usually can spread generally and does not have any limited lifespan.

It should also be noted that memes often form meme complexes, groups of memes mutually supporting each other and replicating together...

In the field of memetics there are a couple of different definitions of "host", "vector" and "meme" around, and there is a tendency to make these wide to the point of being meaningless. We want operational definitions that are usable and still distinct...

A host must be able to possess at least the potential capacity to elaborate on the meme and to perform those cognitive tasks connected to the meme that we normally refer to as "understanding". This means that only humans can be hosts (animals can perhaps become hosts for simpler memes, but we will not discuss this here), at least until the development of artificial intelligences reaches further.

A vector is anything that transports the meme between hosts without the capacity to reflect on the meme. Examples are a wall, a voice, an email-program, or a picture. Can a human be a vector? Yes she can, if she lacks the cognitive capacity (or interest) to elaborate on a specific meme. Then she is just a non-reflective carrier of the meme, much the same as a book. Note though that the human vector is still a potential host - or inactive host (Grant, 1990) - for the meme, should she suddenly choose to analyse the meme (in its widest sense) or achieve the contextual understanding which would make this possible.

The Conscious Meme
It is worth noting that although the terminology used in genetics and memetics sometimes seems to indicate that genes and memes act upon their own conscious will, this is of course not the case. Genes and memes are not conscious, and they do not have a will as such to act upon. But it is practical and economical to speak as if they do, since their behaviour follows such patterns...

The Lifecycle of Memes
Memes have a life-cycle similar to parasites. During the transmission phase of the meme it is encoded in a vector, such as a spoken message, text, image, email, observed behaviour or slab of stone. When a potential host decodes the meme (reads the text, hears the message) the meme may become active and infects the person, who becomes a new host (the infection phase). At some point the meme is encoded in a suitable vector (not necessarily the same medium it was originally decoded from) and can be spread to infect new hosts. [For a complete model of the proposed Meme Cycle by Bjarneskans, Grønnevik & Sandberg, click here.]



Excerpt source:
Susan Blackmore (2002):
The Evolution of Meme Machines,
Conference Paper delivered at the International Congress on Ontopsychology and Memetics, Milan (18-21 May 2002), in:
Dr. Susan Blackmore

By 1998 the term ["meme"] had entered the English language and first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary, defined as follows; Meme (mi:m), n. Biol. (shortened from mimeme ... that which is imitated, after GENE n.) "An element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation". This means that whatever is copied from person to person is a meme. Everything you have learned by copying it from someone else is a meme; every word in your language, every catch-phrase or saying. Every story you have ever heard, and every song you know, is a meme. The fact that you drive on the left (or perhaps the right), that you drink lager, think sun-dried tomatoes are passé, and wear jeans and a T-shirt to work are memes. The style of your house and your bicycle, the design of the roads in your city and the colour of the buses - all these are memes.

There is nothing ethereal about these memes. They are the very behaviours and artefacts that fill our lives. They are whatever is copied.

We can see that much of culture consists of memes. However, it is easy to get carried away and think of all experiences as memes and this is not helpful. We need instead to stick to a clear definition. The whole point of the meme is that it is information copied from one person to another. Therefore a great deal of what goes on in the human mind is nothing to do with memes. First, perception and visual memory need not involve memes. You can look at a beautiful scene, or taste a delicious meal, and remember them in detail without any memes being involved (unless you put words to your experience).

Second, not all learning involves memes. What you learn by yourself through classical conditioning (association) or by operant conditioning (trial and error) need not be memetic. Many other creatures are capable of these processes, and of extensive learning, but they do not have memes because they cannot pass on what they learn to anyone else. There may be a limited capacity for imitation in song birds, dolphins, and possibly some primates. Chimpanzees and orangutans may be capable of very limited forms of imitation, but only humans are capable of the kind of widespread and general imitation that makes a second replicator possible, and so leads to memetic evolution.

We should remember that this new kind of evolution proceeds not in the interest of the genes, nor in the interest of the individual who carries the memes, but in the interest of the memes themselves. This is why both memes and genes are described as "selfish". Replicators are not selfish in the sense of having desires and plans as we do – they couldn't have – they are only bits of information, either coded on DNA or copied by imitation. They are selfish in the sense that they will get copied if they can. In the case of memes, they will use us to get themselves copied without caring about the effect on us, or on our genes, or on our planet.

We can now begin to take on the "the meme's eye view" and from this perspective the important question is why some memes survive and get copied into many brains or artefacts, while others do not. The general principle might be stated like this: Some memes succeed in getting copied because they are good, useful, true, or beautiful, while others succeed even though they are false or useless. From the meme's point of view all this is irrelevant. If a meme can survive and get replicated it will. Generally we humans do try to select true ideas over false ones, and good over bad; after all our biology has set us up to do just that, but we do it imperfectly, and we leave all kinds of opportunities for other memes to get copied - using us as their copying machinery.

We may consider some examples of selfish memes that survive well in spite of being useless, false, or even harmful. At the simplest end of the continuum are self-replicating viral sentences, or simple groups of memes. A group of memes that works together is called a ‘co-adapted meme-complex' or "memeplex". An example is the common sort of email virus that urges you to pass on an urgent warning to all your friends. These messages often warn of a non-existent threat, such as a virus that will destroy everything on your hard disk. If you believe them, and pass on the message, this little memeplex can go on to be copied many more times. In fact the message itself is the virus. Not only have such viruses clogged up whole systems, but when people realise their mistake they often send out new messages telling people not to believe it, and so clog up the system again. Some of these viruses have lasted for five years or more.

The basic structure of such viruses is an instruction to "copy me" backed up by threats and promises. This same structure can be seen in other, more important, memeplexes too. For example, Dawkins uses Catholicism as an example of a group of memes that have succeeded for centuries in spite of being false. At Holy mass, the wine is supposed to turn literally into the blood of Christ. Clearly this is nonsense, in the sense that the wine still smells and tastes as it did before and would not show up as Christ's blood in a DNA test. Yet millions of people routinely believe the claim, as well as believing in heaven and hell, an invisible and all-powerful God, the virgin birth and the Holy Trinity.

Why? Part of the answer is that these memeplexes have the same structure as simple viral memes. But religions use other memetic tricks too. The idea of God appeals because of our desire to understand our origins and purpose here on earth, and to have a greater being who protects us. Of course if God could be seen you could discover that he did not exist, so invisibility is a good ploy. God can see all your sins and will punish you, but you have to wait for proof of that until you are dead. And in case you do show an inclination for checking up on things, you may be reminded that faith is good and questioning is bad (the opposite of how it is in science). In addition, the memes include exhortations to marry another Catholic and bring up lots of children in the faith, or to convert others. Giving your money away to the poor will raise your stakes in heaven, as will contributing to the building and maintenance of great churches, cathedrals, and monuments which will inspire further meme hosts. In all these ways money and effort is diverted into the spreading of memes. The memes make us work for their propagation.

Memes such as religions, cults, fads and ineffective therapies, have been described as viruses of the mind because they infect people and demand their resources in spite of being false. Some authors have emphasised these pernicious kinds of meme and even implied that all memes are viral. However, memes can vary across a wide spectrum. As a general principle we can say that some memes succeed because they are good, true, useful or beautiful, while others succeed even though they are none of these things. And some just pretend to be good or useful. Towards one end are the viruses, religions, cults and false beliefs. Towards the other are our most valuable tools for living (such as our languages, technology and scientific theories). Without memes we could not speak, write, enjoy stories and songs, or do most of the things we associate with being human. Memes are the tools with which we think and our minds are a mass of memes.

Note that successful memeplexes were not deliberately designed by anyone, but were created by the process of memetic selection. Presumably there have always been countless competing memes - whether religions, political theories, ways of curing cancer, clothes fashions, or musical styles - the point about memetic evolution is that the ones we see around us now are those that survived in the competition to be copied. They had what it takes to be a good replicator.



Excerpt source:
Francis Heylighen (1996):
Evolution of Memes on the Network: from chain-letters to the global brain, in:
Principia Cybernetica Web
Reference cited:
Heylighen (1993), "Selection Criteria for the Evolution of Knowledge", Proc. 13th Int. Cong. on Cybernetics (Int. Ass. of Cybernetics, Namur), p. 524-528

There are several selection criteria which determine in how far a particular meme will be successful. The more of these criteria a meme satisfies, the more likely it is that it will maintain and spread (Heylighen, 1993). Objective criteria determine whether the knowledge conveyed by a meme can reliably predict events in the outside world.

Subjective criteria determine in how far an individual is willing to assimilate a particular meme. They include:

 1. coherence:
     the meme is internally consistent, and does not
     contradict other beliefs the individual already has;
     the meme adds something new, something
     remarkable, that attracts the person's attention;
     it is easy to grasp and to remember;
individual utility:
     the meme helps the individual to further his or her
     personal goals.

Intersubjective criteria determine how easily memes travel from subject to subject. They include:

 5. salience:
     the meme is easily noticed by others, e.g.
     because it is shouted out loud, or printed on big
     the meme is easily expressed in language or
     other codes of communication;
     the interpretation of the meme's expression
     depends little on person or context;
     the individuals who carry the meme are inclined to
     "spread the word", to teach it to other people or to
     convert them to the belief;
     the meme is supported by what the majority
collective utility:
     the meme is useful for the group, without
     necessarily being useful for an individual (e.g.
     the traffic code).

• • •

See also:
Heylighen (1998), What makes a meme successful? Selection criteria for cultural evolution
ABSTRACT: Meme replication is described as a 4-stage process, consisting of
assimilation, retention, expression and transmission. The effect of different objective, subjective, intersubjective and meme-centered selection criteria on these different stages is discussed., in:
Proc. 16th Int. Congress on Cybernetics (Association Internat. de Cybernétique, Namur), p. 423-418.
Principia Cybernetica Web

Richard Dawkins:
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 leading 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. ...[M]emes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically. When you plant a fertile meme in my mind, you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn't just a way of talking - the meme for, say, "belief in life after death" is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.

Excerpt source:
Stephen Downes (1999):
Hacking Memes, in:
First Monday, volume 4, number 10 (October 1999)
Copyright © First Monday

Repetition alone worked in the old days of limited media. When the sources of information were few and uniform, when there were three networks and one message. Today's consumers are not only more sophisticated - merely making them remember is no longer enough - consumers are the battleground for information wars, with messages flying at them from all directions. Drive down any city street and look at the images: one in ten (if you're lucky) is an actual traffic signal; the rest are trying to implant some idea, some behaviour, into your mind.

Advertising today looks for stronger hooks, and it finds them in association and self-identification. The concept is especially simple: find (or define) a person's conception of self which is pleasing. Mold that conception such that the use of a product or service is essential to that conception. Imprint the idea that in order to be yourself, you need to purchase such-and-such a brand.

Nike, for example, understands this. After losing market share to Reebok, Nike's new advertising campaign focussed less and less on shoes and more and more on image. As Randall Lane explains,

Nike's Phil Knight isn't selling shoes. He's selling attitude...

Nike would sell not shoes but the athletic ideals of determination, individuality, self-sacrifice and winning...

Nike ads almost never pitch product - or even mention the company's name. They create a mood, an attitude, and then associate the product with that mood. Call it image transfer. Cool ads, cool product. As Wieden puts it: "We don't set out to make ads. The ultimate goal is to make a connection."

The idea behind Nike's ads is to transfer a sense of identity from the person to the product.

Journal of Mimetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission

UK Memes Central


Memetics papers on the Web

Imitation and the definition of a meme
Blackmore, S. (1998)

Viral Marketing: Spread a cold, catch a customer
Fiore, F. (1995)

Unleashing the Ideavirus
Godin, S. & Gladwell, M. (2001)

An Open Mind is not an Empty Mind: Experiments in the Meta-Noosphere
Hales, D. (1998)

Creativity, Evolution and Mental Illnesses.
Preti, A. & Miotto, P. (1997)

Controversies in Meme Theory
Nick Rose (1998)

Steps toward the Memetic Self - a commentary on Rose's paper:
Controversies in Meme Theory
Price, I. (1999)

"Memes" as Infectious Agents in Psychosomatic Illness
Ross, S.E. (1999)

Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs
Dery, M.


Continued from bottom left.
The Mimetic Lexicon
Glenn Grant (1990): Mimetic Lexicon, in:
F. Heylighen,
C. Joslyn &
V. Turchin, eds.:
Principia Cybernetica Web
(Principia Cybernetica, Brussels)

memeoid, or memoid
A person "whose behavior is so strongly influenced by a [meme] that their own survival becomes inconsequential in their own minds." (Henson) (Such as: Kamikazes, Shiite terrorists, Jim Jones followers, any military personnel). hosts and membots are not necessarily memeoids. (See auto-toxic; exo-toxic.)

meme pool
The full diversity of memes accessible to a culture or individual. Learning languages and traveling are methods of expanding one's meme pool.

Related to memes.

memetic drift
Accumulated mis-replications; (the rate of) memetic mutation or evolution. Written texts tend to slow the memetic drift of dogmas (Henson).

memetic engineer
One who consciously devises memes, through meme-splicing and memetic synthesis, with the intent of altering the behavior of others. Writers of manifestos and of commercials are typical memetic engineers. (GMG)

1. One who studies memetics.
2. A memetic engineer. (GMG)

The study of memes and their social effects.

1. The actual information-content of a meme, as distinct from its sociotype.
2. A class of similar memes. (GMG)

Any meme about memes (such as: "tolerance", "metaphor").

Meta-meme, the
The concept of memes, considered as a meme itself.

Millennial meme, the
Any of several currently-epidemic memes which predict catastrophic events for the year 2000, including the battle of Armageddon, the Rapture, the thousand-year reign of Jesus, etc. The "Imminent New Age" meme is simply a pan-denominational version of this. (Also called the 'Endmeme.')

An infection strategy in which a meme attempts to imitate the semiotics of another successful meme. Such as: pseudo-science (Creationism, UFOlogy); pseudo-rebelliousness (Heavy Metal); subversion by forgery (Situationist detournement). (GMG)

replication strategy
Any memetic strategy used by a meme to encourage its host to repeat the meme to other people. The hook co-meme of a meme-complex. (GMG)

A meme which attempts to splice itself into an existing meme-complex (example: Marxist-Leninists trying to co-opt other sociotypes). (GMG)

A meme-complex. (Hofstadter.)

1. The social expression of a memotype, as the body of an organism is the physical expression (phenotype) of the gene (genotype). Hence, the Protestant Church is one sociotype of the Bible's memotype. 2. A class of similar social organisations. (GMG)

The part of a meme-complex that encourages adherence and discourages mis-replication. ("Damnation to Hell" is the threat co-meme in many religious schemes.) (See: bait, hook, vaccime.) (Hofstadter)

A meta-meme which confers resistance to a wide variety of memes (and their sociotypes), without conferring meme-allergies. In its purest form, Tolerance allows its host to be repeatedly exposed to rival memes, even intolerant rivals, without active infection or meme-allergic reaction. Tolerance is a central co-meme in a wide variety of schemes, particularly "liberalism", and "democracy". Without it, a scheme will often become exo-toxic and confer meme-allergies on its hosts. Since schemes compete for finite belief-space, tolerance is not necessarily a virtue, but it has co-evolved in the ideosphere in much the same way as co-operation has evolved in biological ecosystems. (Henson.)

(pron. 'vak-seem') Any meta-meme which confers resistance or immunity to one or more memes, allowing that person to be exposed without acquiring an active infection. Also called an `immuno-meme.' Common immune-conferring memes are "Faith", "Loyalty", "Skepticism", and "tolerance". (See: meme-allergy.) (GMG.)

Every scheme includes a vaccime to protect against rival memes. For instance:

  • Conservatism:
    automatically resist all new memes.
  • Orthodoxy:
    automatically reject all new memes.
  • Science:
    test new memes for theoretical consistency and(where applicable) empirical repeatability; continually re-assess old memes; accept schemes only conditionally, pending future re:-assessment.
  • Radicalism:
    embrace one new scheme, reject all others.
  • Nihilism:
    reject all schemes, new and old.
  • New Age:
    accept all esthetically-appealing memes, new and old, regardless of empirical (or even internal) consistency; reject others. (Note that this one doesn't provide much protection.)
  • Japanese:
    adapt (parts of) new schemes to the old ones.

A medium, method, or vehicle for the transmission of memes. Almost any communication medium can be a memetic vector. (GMG)

Villain vs. Victim
An infection strategy common to many meme-complexes, placing the potential host in the role of Victim and playing on their insecurity, as in: "the bourgeoisie is oppressing the proletariat" (Hofstadter). Often dangerously toxic to host and society in general. Also known as the "Us-and-Them" strategy.

End Memetic Lexicon by Glenn Grant (2000)

Lee Borkman:
Memes, like genes, vary in their fitness to survive in the environment of human intellect. Some reproduce like bunnies, but are very short-lived (fashions), while others are slow to reproduce, but hang around for eons (religions, perhaps?). Note that the fitness of the meme is not necessarily related to the fitness that it confers upon the human being who holds it. The most obvious example of this is the "Smoking is Cool" meme, which does very well for itself while killing off its hosts at a great rate.

Heith Michael Rezabek:
My favorite example of a crucial meme would be "fire" or more importantly, "how to make a fire." This is a behavioral meme, mind you, one which didn't necessarily need a word attached to it to spring up and spread, merely a demonstration for another to follow. Once the meme was out there, it would have spread like wildfire, for obvious reasons... But when you start to think of memes like that -- behavioral memes -- then you can begin to see how language itself, the idea of language, was a meme. Writing was a meme. And within those areas, more specific memes emerged.

Excerpt source:
Kalle Lasn (2002):
"Meme Warfare: A dispatch from the forebrain of the global culture jammer", in: Magazine

In our information age, whoever has the memes has the power.

Right now, corporations have the power. They beam their memes into our brains at the rate of a few thousand ads, brand logos and marketing thrusts per day. In a sense, it is a single message: "You must consume." Yet it has altered everything from the food we eat, to the way we get around town, to the ways we lust and love.

Corporations also control much of the means of meme propagation: the TV and radio stations, movie theaters, magazines, newspapers. But counter-memes are appearing more frequently in the mindscape: spraycan editors "liberate" fashion billboards; bumper stickers ask, "Is Economic Progress Killing the Planet?"; poster campaigns urge people worldwide to join "Buy Nothing" and "TV Turnoff" events. At the Battle in Seattle last November, one big placard pulled a quadruple meme whammy – it spelled out "WTO" using the corporate logos of McDonald’s, Texaco and CBS.

Every outburst of cognitive dissonance is useful, but to mount a serious challenge against corporate rule, we jammers must build our own meme factory. Because we have severely limited budgets, our strategies must be perfectly crafted to tear gaps in the glitter of the consumer spectacle. We must zero in on and deploy the macromemes and the metamemes – the core ideas without which a sustainable future is unthinkable. Here’s the current Adbusters short-list:

  • True Cost:
    The price of every product in the global marketplace must tell the ecological truth.
  • Demarketing:
    Marketing can be turned against itself. We can unsell the product.
  • Doomsday Economics:
    Global consumer capitalism is only equipped for growth. It’s a doomsday machine that must be stopped and reprogrammed.
  • The Corporate "I":
    Corporations are legal fictions that we the people created. They have no inherent rights or freedoms.
  • Media Carta:
    Every human being has the "right to communicate" – to receive and impart information through any media.

Meme warfare is growing ever more intense. The next revolution will be, as media guru Marshall McLuhan predicted, "a guerrilla information war." It will be fought in the streets with signs, slogans, banners and graffiti, but it will be won in newspapers, on the radio, on TV and in cyberspace. It will be a dirty, no-holds-barred propaganda war of competing worldviews and alternative visions of the future.

The corporations have their ad agencies and PR firms, their design hacks and lawyers, and of course, they have their multi-million-dollar budgets. But that may not be enough. We have the Internet – the biggest and best meme medium ever invented. And we have a globally linked network of artists, designers, hackers and multi-media whiz-kids who are motivated by something much bigger than pleasing shareholders. We can win this battle – for ourselves and for the future. Let the meme combat begin!

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