Condemned to the 1st Circle of Hell


(Pronounced “meem”) An idea, thought or piece of information that is passed from generation to generation through imitation and behavioral replication. Coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene,” memes and memetics are the cultural counterpart to the biological study of genes and genetics. Using the evolution analogy, Dawkins observed that human cultures evolve via “contagious” communications in a manner similar to the gene pool of populations over time.

(from; thanks to Kris Szafranski)

Kris’ Thoughts: Interesting idea but this isn’t Civilization. I think it’s bad enough attempting to measure human experience as related to cultural knowledge in increments, but the way the term is tossed around (often by “pro” bloggers) just doesn’t help prove that anyone even knows what it’s supposed to mean. It needs to be ditched.

  1. 1
    Ian Gordon Says:

    This word needs to burn in the fiery pit of the 5th circle of hell, wtf, is meme, and why the fudge should I give a crap about people imitating something, just use copy or repeat or imitate, duh!

  2. 2
    Olwe Says:

    Meme is good. We don’t have race, nation, region, tribe, shire, gender, ethnicity, culture, [your quaint little remote valley here] anymore; therefore, truth can be very relative/become very 1984ish: If you spin a communication hard enough it might become accepted in the “deep culture” way, i.e., in a “Nazis are evil,” “Princess Di is good,” “global growth-only capitalism is the only way” permanent way. Memes came about just as viruses, we leave [your quaint little remote valley here] where identity, values, belonging, etc. were standard issue for generations–and crowd together in the electronic global McVillage totally exposed, our beliefs and values highly malleble. Always anxious to know which way the wind’s blowin’, we want to plug into/help shape the dominant conventional wisdom. In this setting memes are communication specially designed for rapid assimilation in the growing conventional wisdom snowball. So, yes, meme is a wonderful way to describe all the communication atoms and molecules that fly around these days. Postmodern relativism means everybody talks and everybody listens–and the well-built meme rises above the din to become internalized. Right? Personally, I think it’s a communication model two steps away from the pre-hive-queen Borg, one step away from 1984/hive-queen Borg.

  3. 3
    Geoff Chapman Says:

    Richard Dawkins is a genius. When it comes to Biology. But he is a twazzock for trying to talk about things he knows nothing about. The idea of a meme is untenable, non-sensical codswallop.

  4. 4
    Bryan Says:

    Olwe & Geoff: Those are awesome comments. Thank you.

  5. 5
    Chris Says:

    I’ve always heard it said as meem but still think it’s some sort of 400lb behemoth pronounced meemee. Oh well aside from the occasional designer blog I really only run into this when I accidentally find myself on livejournal or myspace. Thankfully it’s relegated itself into those dank foul corners of morlockishness and for the most part that is a good thing. Meme’s are voluntarily passed text virii and those who post them are just wasting space/bandwidth.

    meme meme?? Pass it on! :)
    post your least favorite meme: this one.
    Do you like meme’s: no
    Are you going to pass this meme to all your friends: no.

  6. 6
    Matt Says:

    “blahblahblah a meme blalhlbalh”
    “Oh, you mean an idea? Is that what you meant?”
    “Oh, why didn’t you just say so!”

  7. 7
    Meem Says:

    Carol Vorderman wouldn’t pee on a meme if it was on fire ……! Two Vowels plz Carol

    You wonderful people with too much info and not enough sense .Meme ??? Hahha

  8. 8
    Greg Says:

    Hang on a minute… sure, it’s annoying when people toss this word around just to sound clever, and might as well talk about “ideas” or “imitation” instead. But:

    1.) The idea did what it was supposed to do in Dawkins’ book; i.e. it illustrated an important point about how selection gets to work on genes, by suggesting an analogy with other things that get copied imperfectly. Dawkins never claimed to be an expert in cultural studies or psychology – but he IS an expert in Darwinian natural selection. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to speculate on how the process might apply to things other than genes?

    2.) Not all people who talk about memes are gibberish-spouting postmodernists trying to sound clever. Read Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine – a fascinating and bullshit-free view of the issue – before smugly dismissing the whole idea.

    I’m sure there are still people who think “gene” is a pointless piece of scientific jargon and we might as well just talk about inheriting our parents’ eye colour etc. – but the fact is, looking at evolution in terms of genes is a useful thing to do. (Apart from the usefulness of taking a “gene’s eye view”, imagine how complicated talking about inheritance would get if we hadn’t coined this new word.) Maybe looking at culture and the mind in terms of memes will be useful too, and maybe not. Noting the trendiness of the word – whether that’s something that attracts you or puts you off – isn’t going to settle the issue either way.

    By all means ignore the bandwagon-jumpers who latch on to any new concept they think sounds cool, but it’s not good sense to ignore thoughtful, sceptical people like Dawkins, Blackmore and Daniel Dennett just because you don’t trust new ideas with funny-sounding names. Every good idea was new once!

  9. 9
    Alex Says:

    Thank goodness a spot of reason and intellect was finally posted by Greg. Its a sad indictment of the other posters that they cannot even be arsed to read and understand something which they clearly are incapable of discussing in a considered manner. I suspect debating or English was not their finest hour at school…

    But then.. the opportunity is there to open your mind. Move on and do a bit more reading about it as Greg suggests, and while your at it, try actually reading about genetics please, next you will probably start some pathetic nonsense about the supernatural for which there has not, nor can ever be any evidence for. A knee jerk ill considered and frankly poor dismissal is VERY VERY far short of an adult argument..

    See what I meme?