Saturday, April 08, 2006

What is the meme cycle?

The meme cycle describes how the meme travels across the memescape from human to human.

To fully cycle, a meme must begin its journey at Level 1 (memetic) of its first host. It passes through the host’s Level 2 (subjective) and into the physical world at Level 3 (objective). The host demonstrates the meme to a prospective host in some overt way.

For example, the host may demonstrate to the prospect how to perform the Hokey Pokey. He might sing and dance the Hokey Pokey. Or he might hand the prospect the meme embedded in a manifesto, such as sheet music:

Now let's say that the prospect's Level 2 rejects the Hokey Pokey. Perhaps the song and the dance make him feel silly. Perhaps he relates the Hokey Pokey to a tragic incident in his life. Perhaps he is a Southern Baptist and rejects dancing in general. Perhaps he speaks only French and doesn't understand what you are saying. For whatever reason, he rejects the Hokey Pokey and the meme fails to replicate with this prospect.

But if the prospect’s Level 2 accepts the meme, the meme will pass through the filters of Level 2 to reach the prospects Level 1. Having observed the meme, the prospect now imitates the meme. He does the Hokey Pokey. The prospect becomes a host. The meme will then urge the new host to demonstrate the meme to yet another prospect.

In brief, the meme cycle may be described as:
  • Demonstration: The meme travels from the host’s memetic storage through his subjective mind and into the physical world, where it will take the form of an action or an artifact.
  • Observation: The action is observed by a prospective host. The prospect may ignore the demonstration. Or the prospect’s own subjective mind may reject the demonstration.
  • Imitation: If the prospect’s subjective mind will allow it, the prospect will imitate the host’s action. The meme thus convert the prospect into a host.
Copyright 2006 by W.O. Cawley Jr.


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