Re: virus: Meme vs concept

J. McVean (
Fri, 17 May 96 17:24:36 MDT

Wow... I subscribed to this list just before going house-sitting
(and consequently losing convenient access to my e-mail) so I had
about a hundred messages to wade through. So if my attention
wavered and I missed the settling of this issue I apologize.

David McFadzean wrote:
> Tadeusz Niwinski wrote:
> >All concepts do replicate and evolve -- or die as memes do. Can you give an
> >example of a concept that is not a meme?
>Even if "concept" and "meme" refer to the same thing, they do not have
>the same meaning. The word "meme" should automatically evoke connotations
>of evolution, that is why the word was coined by Dawkins in the first
>place. Ask most people what "concept" means and evolution never enters
>the picture.

David's point is a good one but I don't think it is necessary to
concede that "meme" and "concept" refer to the same thing.

Isn't it fair to say that "concept" is a subset of "meme"? For
instance, have you noticed the fairly recent growth in the
popularity of degraded, "dirtied up" typefaces? I may be mistaken
but they seem to be all over the place now. Similarly, fashion
trends come and go in a way that is consistant with my
understanding of what a meme is. However, I would hesitate to
call wearing a baseball cap and vest to a popular bar a concept.
When a graphic designer sees an interesting effect using a dirty
typeface, he may be persuaded to try a similar effect in his next
design. Or when a guy goes to a bar and sees that baseball caps
and vests are the standard uniform, he may come dressed
appropriately the next time. So in both cases, a meme has
successfully reproduced. One could argue that these are
"design concepts" and "fashion concepts" but that seems pretty
far removed from the typical connotations of the term concept.

How about taking on the mannerisms of a person with whom you
spend a great deal of time. Lots of people assimilate gestures,
or speech patterns or accents or types of humor into their own
behaviour after having been exposed to new examples of these
things. And often this assimilation is entirely unconcious so the
terms "concept" and "idea" seem particularly inappropriate.

Am I stretching the meaning of meme?