virus: Re: Sociological Change
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 18:57:05 -0500

Responding to the welcome from Ken Pantheists,

I'm still reading as much as I can about this, and I have to say that I'm
definitely not a convert. I found Richard Barbrook's "Memesis Critique" on
the Symposium page to be outstanding. What's attractive about memetics is
that much of its vocabulary resonates so well as a way of explaining the
propagation of ideas in society. But I would follow Giddens in saying that
social structures (akin to memes) are the medium and outcome of social
practice. Memetics seems to reverse that by insisting that humans (agents)
are the medium, rather than the creators of that structure. Thus, machines
can be also agents, perhaps removing humans from the picture entirely. I
don't think most memeticians believe that, but some say they do, and I don't
think they're joking.

Memetics captures the ideas that: 1) we do not behave entirely voluntarily in
creating structure, and; 2) that structure is reproduced (replicated) through
our behaviors. But I agree with Barbrook that many of the "memeticians" have
fallen into the trap of historical materialism, believing that society (in
the form of hosted memes) makes people, period. The challenge is
understanding the nuances of how people and society co-constitute each other.
Structuration theory does a much better job of that. But "memes" have entered
pop lingo, even though memetic theory is far less developed.

Craig Simon