Author Topic: Anatomy of a Meme  (Read 23451 times)

Cramulus

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Anatomy of a Meme
« on: July 24, 2007, 01:10:42 pm »
We've been talking a bit about memetics and the properties of memes. So from what I know of memetics, here are some concepts which may make it easier to talk about this stuff. (The terminology I use is from Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, in which he's talking about memes in terms of marketing. He calls a successful meme an Ideavirus.)

Velocity - a measure of how fast an idea spreads from one party to another

Hive - a network of people who exchange information. Information travels very easily within a hive, especially when regard each other as credible sources. PD.com is a hive. A class of third graders is a hive. Friends who talk about HP Lovecraft are a sort of hive.

Sneeze - a sneeze is a transmission of a meme between two people. If I see a cool commercial, and then I ask my friend if he's seen that commercial, that counts as a sneeze. Basically any time you mention a product, you are sneezing that meme.

Smoothness - how easy it is for someone to sneeze the meme. Sports trivia is very smooth in regards to sports fans. Really boring or complicated topics are not smooth.

Another factor influencing smoothness is whether or not the meme presents a risk or reward to the sneezer. For example, the iPhone is considered cool. You might seem cooler for knowing about the iPhone or mentioning your friend that has one. If you're attending NAMBLA meetings you'd probably want to keep a lid on that. So NAMBLA membership isn't very smooth.

Promiscuity - One's likelihood to spread a meme. Really promiscuous people sneeze a lot. Marketing teams twist their brains in knots trying to figure out how to get the cool guys and the hot girls to start using their products. Trendsetters and people of authority tend to be very promiscuous.




Cramulus

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2007, 02:12:35 pm »
here's some more stuff on memes,
highlights from wikipedia's rather long article.

if this is tl;dr to you, skip it. Personally, this stuff fascinates me.

On the Evolution of Memes
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme#Memetic_evolution
Quote
A gene's success in a body may stem from its attempt to bypass the normal sexual lottery by making itself present in more than 50% of zygotes in an organism. Some genes find other ways of having themselves transmitted between cells. Hence multiple factors influence the evolution of genes — not just the success of the species as a whole. Similarly the evolutionary pressures on memes include much more than just truth and economic success. Evolutionary pressures may include the following:

   1. Experience: If a meme does not correlate with an individual's experience, then that individual has a reduced likelihood of remembering that meme.

   2. Pleasure/Pain: If a meme results in more pleasure or less pain for its host then the host will have a greater likelihood of remembering it.

   3. Fear/Bribery: If a meme constitutes a threat then people may become frightened into believing it. Similarly, if a meme promises some future benefit then people may incline to believe it. The memes ¬ªif you do X you will burn in hell¬´ and ¬ªdo Y and you will go to heaven¬´ provide examples. Memes which pass on the fear of a threat, of the likelihood or effectiveness of a threat, that ¬ªsomething will happen if you do such and such a thing¬´, have a high likelihood of success, and may therefore replicate and remain in the meme-pool. They may assist in this way in the survival of a thought, a theme or a philosophy within a community.

   4. Censorship: If an organisation destroys any retention-systems containing a particular meme or otherwise controls the usage of that meme, then that meme may suffer a selective disadvantage.

   5. Economics: If people or organisations with economic influence exhibit a particular meme, then the meme has a greater likelihood of benefiting from a greater audience. If a meme tends to increase the riches of an individual holding it, then that meme may spread because of imitation. Such memes might include ¬ªHard work is good¬´ and ¬ªPut number one first¬´.

   6. Distinction: If the meme enables hearers to recognize and respect tellers (as leaders, intelligent people, insightful, etc.), then the meme has a greater chance of spreading. The erstwhile receivers will want to become themselves tellers of the same meme (or of an evolved/mutated version). Thus ?©lite knowledge can provide a promotion to ?©lite status.

Memes, like genes, do not purposely do or want anything — they either get replicated or not. Some meme systems have negative effects on the host or on their host society, but humans generally have a symbiotic relationship with these abstract entities.

Memes do not mutate in an exclusively passive way. The brain inhabited by a meme system can carry out a sort of active modification of a meme. One could draw an analogy with a cell's error-correction systems, but they clearly function quite differently. In essence, people create and modify memes almost continuously. One can modify, manipulate, and create meme systems in thought, for instance through internal dialogue. As soon as one opens one's mouth and says something (or does something) that one has not copied (but that others can copy), one has unleashed a novel meme. Thus, one could conclude that we all perform the role of a memetic engineer to some degree (even if not consciously).

on Memetic Virus Exchange
Quote

One controversial application of this »selfish meme« parallel (compare the selfish gene) results in the idea that certain collections of memes can act as »memetic viruses«: collections of ideas that behave as independent life-forms which continue to get passed on — even at the expense of their hosts — simply because of their success at getting passed on. Some observers have suggested that evangelical religions and cults behave this way; so by including the act of passing on their beliefs as a moral virtue, other beliefs of the religion also get passed along even if they do not provide particular benefits to the believer.

Others maintain that the wide prevalence of human adoption of religious ideas provides evidence to suggest that such ideas offer some ecological, sexual, ethical or moral value; otherwise memetic evolution would long ago have selected against such ideas. For example, some religions urge peace and co-operation among their followers (¬´Thou shalt not kill¬´) which may possibly tend to promote the biological survival of the social groups that carry these memes. However, the idea of group selection stands on shaky ground (to say the least) in the field of genetics. Accordingly, some consider the idea of selection of ideas beneficial to the group exclusively as unlikely

Here's an interesting note that came up recently --  In the Ego Sickness thread, and also in the essay Jailbreaking for Idiots (which either Vex or SillyCybin wrote, but it's in the new BIP), we've talked about how one's identity can be obscured by the memes it collects. At a certain point, one has to wonder whether your (say) taste in music is you. Dawkins sez

Quote
Dawkins notes that one can distinguish a biological virus from its host's normal genetic material by the fact that it can propagate alone, without the entire genetic corpus of the host being propagated



cool stuff

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2007, 02:20:16 pm »
yes!

these were the wikipedia articles i was talking about.

now, on to the external links, because wikipedia is, well, wikipedia :)
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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2007, 02:30:01 pm »
This was a topic on SA for a while when lowtax wanted to see could he force a meme. He selected a really crappy Simpson's parody, nothing extraordinary about it compared to the shit memes of 4chan. To be fair it seemed to be working but the video was pulled and no one bothered using a mirror.
I did not feel comfortable with the whole affair.
I wonder, would anyone be up for spamming 4chan with himeobs logos some day?

Cramulus

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2007, 03:14:53 pm »
from this summary of Seth Godin's book which I mentioned earlier


Quote
It's More Than Just Word Of Mouth

Marketers have been pursuing word of mouth for years. There are five important principles that someone unleashing an ideavirus should understand--principles that marketers pursuing old-fashioned word of mouth didn't use:

   1. An idea merchant understands that creating the virus is the single most important part of her job. So she'll spend all her time and money on creating a product and environment that feeds the virus.

   2. An idea merchant understands that by manipulating the key elements of idea propagation--the velocity, the vector, the smoothness, the persistence and the identification of sneezers--she can dramatically alter a virus's success.

      Definition: PERSISTENCE Some ideas stick around a long time with each person, influencing them (and those they sneeze on) for months or years to come. Others have a much shorter half-life before they fade out.

      Definition: VECTOR    As an ideavirus moves through a population, it usually follows a vector. It could be a movement toward a certain geographic or demographic audience, for example. Sometimes an ideavirus starts in a sub-group and then breaks through that niche into the public consciousness. Other times, it works its way through a group and then just stops. Napster vectored straight to college kids. Why? Because they combined the three things necessary for the virus to catch on: fast connection, spare time and an obsession with new music.

   3. The idea merchant remembers that digital word of mouth is a permanent written record online, a legacy that will follow the product, for good or for ill, forever.

  4.
An idea merchant realizes that the primary goal of a product or service is not just to satisfy the needs of one user. It has to deliver so much wow, be so cool, so neat and so productive that the user tells five friends. Products market themselves by creating and reinforcing ideaviruses.

   5. An idea merchant knows that the ideavirus follows a lifecycle and decides at which moment to shift from paying to spread it, to charging the user and profiting from it.




Quote
What Does It Take To Build And Spread An Ideavirus?

There are two questions you can ask yourself about your idea before you launch it...questions that will help you determine how likely your idea will become an ideavirus.

Is it worth it?
Nobody spreads an ideavirus as a favor to you. They do it because it's remarkable, thought-provoking, important, profitable, funny, horrible or beautiful. In today's winner-take-all world, there's no room for a me-too offering, or worse, BORING products and services. If it's not compelling, it will never lead to an ideavirus.

Face it. Nobody is going to hand out big rewards ever again for being on time, performing work of good quality, being useful, finishing a project on budget or being good enough. That's expected. That's a given. The rewards (and the ideavirus) belong to the first, the fastest, the coolest, the very best.

 If your idea doesn't become a virus, it's most likely because it didn't deserve to become a virus.


Is it smooth?
After someone's been exposed to an ideavirus just once, they're not likely to actually catch it. We've made our brains bulletproof and ideaproof. There's so much clutter, so much noise, so many ideas to choose from that the vast majority of them fail to make a dent.

Think about the last time you walked through a bookstore (the home of ideaviruses waiting to happen). How many books did you stop and look at? Pick up? Turn over? And how many of those books ended up in your shopping basket? Got read? Led you to tell ten friends? Precious few, that's for sure.

Compare this to the Harry Potter phenomenon... the bestselling books of the last few years, created just because kids told kids. A classic ideavirus, and one that initially grew with no promotion at all from the publisher.

It's difficult to get from awareness to the "sale" of an idea, to convert a stranger into a friend and a friend into a carrier of your ideavirus. An ideavirus succeeds when it pierces our natural defenses and makes an impact.
It's foolish to expect that one exposure to your message will instantly convert someone from stranger to raving ideavirus-spreading fan. So plan on a process. Plan on a method that takes people from where they are to where you want them to go.

And while you're at it, work on the product. Because a catchier, more compelling, more viral product makes your job 100 times easier.

These are critical decisions because of the attention deficit marketers are facing. In 1986, the year I published my first book, there were about 300 other business books published. In 1998, there were 1,778 business books brought to market.

The supermarket sees about 15,000 new products introduced every year. The Levenger catalog alone features more than 50 different pens and pencils, none of which were available just a couple years ago. There isn't a marketplace out there that isn't more crowded than it was a decade ago.

In a world where products are screaming for attention, the most precious commodity is attention. And attention is harder and harder to achieve.

If you already understand the power of permission, your next question might be, "Fine, but how do we get permission? How do we get the first date... the first interaction where we ask people if we can start an ongoing dialogue about our products and their needs?"

My answer used to be a rather weak mumble about buying ads. The right answer, however, is to create an ideavirus. The right answer is to let the market tell itself about your products and services and give you permission to continue the dialogue without your having to pay for it each time. The right answer is to create products so dynamic and virusworthy that you earn the attention.

 

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2007, 03:40:22 pm »
I also highly recommend "The Book of Atem" by Phil Hine. It's a very intersting workbook on memetics (through the 'memetic magic' kind of model). I took a class he taught on the subject and it was a really useful set of metaphors to use when tweaking the meme... meme. Also, memetic entities are cool.
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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2007, 04:52:34 pm »
As soon as I get to a company machine I'm printing this off and putting it in my mad scientist folder.  just what the Doctor ordered. :)

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2007, 04:56:25 pm »
:mittens:

Cram et al. totally bring the goods, ITT
One by one, we break the sheep from their Iron Bar Prisons and expand their imaginations, make them think for themselves. In turn, they break more from their prisons. Eventually, critical mass is reached. Our key word: Resolve. Evangelize with compassion and determination. And realize that there will be few in the beginning. We are hand picking our successors. They are the future of Discordianism. Let us guide our future with intelligence.

     --Reverse Brainwashing: A Guide http://www.principiadiscordia.com/forum/index.php?topic=9801.0


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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2007, 06:25:53 pm »
from this summary of Seth Godin's book which I mentioned earlier


Quote
It's More Than Just Word Of Mouth

Marketers have been pursuing word of mouth for years. There are five important principles that someone unleashing an ideavirus should understand--principles that marketers pursuing old-fashioned word of mouth didn't use:

   1. An idea merchant understands that creating the virus is the single most important part of her job. So she'll spend all her time and money on creating a product and environment that feeds the virus.

   2. An idea merchant understands that by manipulating the key elements of idea propagation--the velocity, the vector, the smoothness, the persistence and the identification of sneezers--she can dramatically alter a virus's success.

      Definition: PERSISTENCE Some ideas stick around a long time with each person, influencing them (and those they sneeze on) for months or years to come. Others have a much shorter half-life before they fade out.

      Definition: VECTOR    As an ideavirus moves through a population, it usually follows a vector. It could be a movement toward a certain geographic or demographic audience, for example. Sometimes an ideavirus starts in a sub-group and then breaks through that niche into the public consciousness. Other times, it works its way through a group and then just stops. Napster vectored straight to college kids. Why? Because they combined the three things necessary for the virus to catch on: fast connection, spare time and an obsession with new music.

   3. The idea merchant remembers that digital word of mouth is a permanent written record online, a legacy that will follow the product, for good or for ill, forever.

  4.
An idea merchant realizes that the primary goal of a product or service is not just to satisfy the needs of one user. It has to deliver so much wow, be so cool, so neat and so productive that the user tells five friends. Products market themselves by creating and reinforcing ideaviruses.

   5. An idea merchant knows that the ideavirus follows a lifecycle and decides at which moment to shift from paying to spread it, to charging the user and profiting from it.




Quote
What Does It Take To Build And Spread An Ideavirus?

There are two questions you can ask yourself about your idea before you launch it...questions that will help you determine how likely your idea will become an ideavirus.

Is it worth it?
Nobody spreads an ideavirus as a favor to you. They do it because it's remarkable, thought-provoking, important, profitable, funny, horrible or beautiful. In today's winner-take-all world, there's no room for a me-too offering, or worse, BORING products and services. If it's not compelling, it will never lead to an ideavirus.

Face it. Nobody is going to hand out big rewards ever again for being on time, performing work of good quality, being useful, finishing a project on budget or being good enough. That's expected. That's a given. The rewards (and the ideavirus) belong to the first, the fastest, the coolest, the very best.

 If your idea doesn't become a virus, it's most likely because it didn't deserve to become a virus.


Is it smooth?
After someone's been exposed to an ideavirus just once, they're not likely to actually catch it. We've made our brains bulletproof and ideaproof. There's so much clutter, so much noise, so many ideas to choose from that the vast majority of them fail to make a dent.

Think about the last time you walked through a bookstore (the home of ideaviruses waiting to happen). How many books did you stop and look at? Pick up? Turn over? And how many of those books ended up in your shopping basket? Got read? Led you to tell ten friends? Precious few, that's for sure.

Compare this to the Harry Potter phenomenon... the bestselling books of the last few years, created just because kids told kids. A classic ideavirus, and one that initially grew with no promotion at all from the publisher.

It's difficult to get from awareness to the "sale" of an idea, to convert a stranger into a friend and a friend into a carrier of your ideavirus. An ideavirus succeeds when it pierces our natural defenses and makes an impact.
It's foolish to expect that one exposure to your message will instantly convert someone from stranger to raving ideavirus-spreading fan. So plan on a process. Plan on a method that takes people from where they are to where you want them to go.

And while you're at it, work on the product. Because a catchier, more compelling, more viral product makes your job 100 times easier.

These are critical decisions because of the attention deficit marketers are facing. In 1986, the year I published my first book, there were about 300 other business books published. In 1998, there were 1,778 business books brought to market.

The supermarket sees about 15,000 new products introduced every year. The Levenger catalog alone features more than 50 different pens and pencils, none of which were available just a couple years ago. There isn't a marketplace out there that isn't more crowded than it was a decade ago.

In a world where products are screaming for attention, the most precious commodity is attention. And attention is harder and harder to achieve.

If you already understand the power of permission, your next question might be, "Fine, but how do we get permission? How do we get the first date... the first interaction where we ask people if we can start an ongoing dialogue about our products and their needs?"

My answer used to be a rather weak mumble about buying ads. The right answer, however, is to create an ideavirus. The right answer is to let the market tell itself about your products and services and give you permission to continue the dialogue without your having to pay for it each time. The right answer is to create products so dynamic and virusworthy that you earn the attention.

 
It would be nice seeing someone who is not a sleaze marketing person structuring plans to hit home.
To correctly fill the BIP with the correct virus meme, we have to know the target audience. Here we have a wide spread of gamers, nerds and scenesters.
If we want this to be fully accessible to everyone, the same kinda thing that catches people who come to the site probably wont work on everyone else. However the people who come to the site will probably read the bip regardless.
to market it to the horrid unwashed masses, it will need a lot less gloom. To much cynicism and people will dismiss it as pessimistic and miss pretty much all the best stuff.

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2007, 06:28:55 pm »
as far as i understand from the texts, it works best if you modify the product so it 'll become virus-worthy.
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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2007, 08:37:30 pm »
as far as i understand from the texts, it works best if you modify the product so it 'll become virus-worthy.

Yes, but can you do that without changing the message?
One by one, we break the sheep from their Iron Bar Prisons and expand their imaginations, make them think for themselves. In turn, they break more from their prisons. Eventually, critical mass is reached. Our key word: Resolve. Evangelize with compassion and determination. And realize that there will be few in the beginning. We are hand picking our successors. They are the future of Discordianism. Let us guide our future with intelligence.

     --Reverse Brainwashing: A Guide http://www.principiadiscordia.com/forum/index.php?topic=9801.0


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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2007, 08:45:16 pm »
as far as i understand from the texts, it works best if you modify the product so it 'll become virus-worthy.

Yes, but can you do that without changing the message?

I feel that the answer is no.

No is the answer in my opinion.

Same message, different linguistic product.
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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2007, 08:53:55 pm »
little bits could be made more uplifting, if one of the messages is come up with your own answers and own way of life, then why are nearly all the messages packaged so bleakly?

Cramulus

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2007, 08:57:35 pm »
I did end up taking one of the essays "A touch of the Con" and rewriting it in the first person instead of the second person. Now it's written from the point of view of the con

"that's exactly how we want it! Tired little sheep, running around..."

I think it sounds much better that way. Incites people to rebel and disagree with THAT force rather than feeling judged or attacked

but anyway



look at the BIP within this memetic framework.

Personally, I think the Black Iron Prison metaphor is the product, and the pamphlet is the packaging.

Quote
Velocity - a measure of how fast an idea spreads from one party to another

I'd say it has a slow velocity. It is a somewhat complex idea which relies on metaphor and abstractions. This takes a long time to communicate.

The sound-bite 'you're stuck in a prison made up of your choices and conditioning' doesn't sell it well. To get the full experience, you have to read the essays and be in that mindset. Which takes a bit longer.

The PDF has high velocity because it's easy to link someone to something


Quote
Hive

Well the PD hive is infected with this ideavirus, and we've tried to spread it to other hives as well. The BIP pamphlet is very much tailored to our hive - it's an interesting thought experiment to visualize how the BIP pamphlet would look if we tailored it to other hives.

How would it look if we re-wrote it for SomethingAwful?
How would it look if we re-wrote it for wicca.com?
How would it look if we re-wrote it for the Prairie Homemaker forum?

Quote
Smoothness - how easy it is for someone to sneeze the meme.

again, it's very easy to link to a PDF

There is a certain type of person who will read the BIP pamphlet and want to tell others about it. It is very smooth to them, but not to others. what factors make it that way?


The BIP metaphor has nothing about it which relies on Discordia. It could theoretically exist without Discordia or this website.

In some ways I think it's spread within us so deeply because it's connected to this idea we all like - that it's a Discordian text and can accomplish the same sort of awakening that some Discordians strive for.

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Re: Anatomy of a Meme
« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2007, 09:04:06 pm »
Sadly the easiest way to catch the attention with this is plug raw, give a brief outline of the old pd, the absurdism etc being changed, the new message and then the pdf link.

It will need to be peddled as discordia revisited, not stand alone on the bip, which seems fine to me.
edit: this is in relation to sa and the wiccan sites, elsewhere would need a different approach.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2007, 09:07:33 pm by faust »