forward the debate about debatable memes!

Wed, 9 Feb 1994 23:15:38 EST

debate, scheduled to end not before February 14, the Valentine's Day fertility
rite, which is not coincidentally placed exactly midway through African
American History Month - the foregoing is what, as an Informant, I'd tell
an Anthropologist or other Explainer - I recalled, upon reading Seeker1/
Steve Mizrach's claim to being "deliberately countercultural," the immortal
words (because he's dead) of Abbie Hoffman about a "total assault on the
culture," a "complete mess," and such. Which I had no stomach for; rather,
a small, if possible entertaining, and hopefully instructional bit of
"chimpanzee theater" (another Hoffmanism) on the unacknowledged or
taken-for-granted culture of ANTHRO-L itself: What I did was to violate
one of the unquestioned iron rules of Net culture, that which minimizes
ambiguity. Instead, I announced that I couln't pass up the chance to add
yet another layer of "meanings" and contradictions to the existing confusion.
There were unintended consequences, both social (on the list) and psychological
(to myself) which first rendered me incapable of analyzing what was actually
going on; and finally kept me in hiding, lying in bed and on my office floor,
for five days. This is the price of applying 1960s principles of direct action
(which may well be obsolete and objectively reactionary of course), such as:
Be unaware of what you are doing and, all the more strongly, when you are going
to do it. I may truly say that, on the night of Thurs-Fri Jan 20-21, I got more
smashed *without LSD* than on any other occasion in my life.

From this perspective, I should like to consider the current debate on
memes: For my part, I have no use for the notion of "meme," but find it
endlessly fascinating for sociology-of-knowledge purposes. Rather than banish
meme-ology to another list, I should like to see it develop into a focus
of self-generating cultural conflict which, because *relatively* unprovoked,
has the potential for generating illustrative convulsions in the local
(ANTHRO-L) subculture. Possibly because, first and foremost, meme-ology is
undigestible within it.

I've read all the posts on "memes" and will sit this one out and watch, but
suggest the following as spinoff threads:
(a) What accounts for the appeal of the meme notion to Seeker1/Steve Mizrach
and his co-partisans, the latter comprising a not-inconsiderable number of
youngish people who are, as a rule, uninterested in social science?
(b) Relatedly, why does the meme notion have greater reasonance for its
partisans than older notions of ideas, theories, doctrines?
(c) Can we say that the meme is recursively defined, such that, "The best
or most successful example of the meme is Dawkins' formulation of memes?"

Let us all hope for some unintended consequences from all of this.

And what do you suppose I meant by that?

Daniel A. Foss