Saturday, April 08, 2006

How does a meme manifest in the physical world?

In the Level 3 (objective) world, a meme must take a physical form to survive. It has four options:
  1. Action.
  2. Document.
  3. Artifact.
  4. Symbol.
The simplest choice is usually an action. For example, demonstrating the tango. Or taking part in a ritual, such as Holy Communion. Or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Or building a table.

A document is a storage facility for the meme. For example, a video on "How to Dance the Tango," or a pamphlet that describes communion, or a recording of the pledge, or a how-to book on building tables.

An artifact is an object that aids in demonstrating the meme or that demonstrates the meme on its own. For example, a hula-hoop is not a meme. Instead, it is an artifact that aids in the demonstration of the meme, "Play with a hula-hoop." Another example: A house built in the Tudor style is not a meme; it is an artifact that demonstrates the design of a Tudor house for others to copy, and demonstrates the meme, "Build a Tudor-style house."

The most complex form is the symbol. A meme appears as a symbol in the objective (Level 3) world by taking any or all of three forms:
  • Icon: A visual representation of the meme.
  • Probe: A verbal representation of the meme.
  • Earworm: An audio representation of the meme.
The symbol reminds the human mind to think of the meme and to consider taking an action. Consider the patriotic meme, “Love your country.”

In the United States:
  • The icons include the American flag, George Washington, the bald eagle and Uncle Sam.
  • The probes include “Give me liberty or give me death” and “Land of the free and home of the brave.”
  • The earworms include “The Star-Spangled Banner” as well as John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” George M. Cohan’s “Grand Old Flag” and Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
Copyright 2006 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

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