Friday, April 07, 2006

What is the memescape?

The memescape describes the realms (both mental and physical) that store, shelter, accept, reject or mutate the meme as its journeys from one human to another. There are three levels to the memescape :
  • Level 1: Memetic.
  • Level 2: Subjective.
  • Level 3. Objective.
Level 1 exists in the human brain. This is the memetic realm, where memes are stored as heuristics or as algorithms.

Level 2 also exists in the mind. This is subjective realm, where the mind stores instincts, emotions, perceptions, desires, fears, experiences and opinions. These are the filters that decide whether a meme will be allowed to pass from Level 1 to Level 3, or from Level 3 to Level 1.

Level 3 is the physical world. Here memes take a different form. They may manifest as human actions or be stored as documents, artifacts and symbols.

For example, let’s take the meme, “Hit a baseball.” The information for taking this action is stored at Level 1, the memetic mind. The meme would include instructions such as “Stand in the batter’s box with your shoulder toward the pitcher,” “Keep your eyes on the ball,” “Cock your bat back just as the pitcher delivers the ball,” “Step forward as you swing,” and so on.

Whether you actually decide to take the action is determined by your Level 2, the subjective mind. You may simply have no interest in hitting a baseball. You may have been hit by a baseball and actually fear standing in the batter’s box. You may be of the opinion that baseball is for children and that, as an adult, you would look silly hitting a baseball. Or you may enjoy the action and revel in opportunity to smack a ball with a bat. In this last case, you would likely grab a bat and start swinging.

Thus the meme manifests itself at Level 3, the physical world, as an action for others to observe and imitate. If you are a father, you may pass the meme to your son through careful instruction. If you are a coach, you may pass the meme to your players.
If you are a major league star, you might decide to store your knowledge in a book or in a training video. Here, the meme finds storage in the physical world. The book and the video are documents that, if studied, will pass the meme to a new host. As for the baseball and the bat, these are the artifacts that allow the meme to manifest in the physical world. The documents and the artifacts work in concert to assist the survival of the meme “Hit a baseball” as well as the larger memeplex we call “Baseball.”

If you are playing on a sandlot, and your all-time favorite hitter is Reggie Jackson, you might wear a New York Yankee cap and a replica of Jackson’s jersey. The stylized NY on the cap and the 44 on the jersey are symbols of the meme, “Hit a baseball.” They trigger deep-seated memories of Jackson’s swing, as well as his confidence at the plate. Though other players see the symbols you wear, the symbols (and the memes they represent) speak more to you than to the others on the field.

Copyright 2006 by W.O. Cawley Jr.

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