A meme ( /?mi?m/; meem) is “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.
The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek ?????? Greek pronunciation: [mí?m??ma] m?m?ma, “something imitated”, from ????????? mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from ????? mimos “mime”) and it was coined by the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976) as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catch-phrases, fashion and the technology of building arches.
Proponents theorize that memes may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition andinheritance, each of which influence a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may becomeextinct, while others may survive, spread and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.
A field of study called memetics arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible. Some commentators[who?] question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units. Others, including Dawkins himself, have argued that this usage of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.
An Internet meme (/?mi?m/ MEEM) is an idea, style or action which spreads, often as mimicry, from person to person via the Internet, as with imitating the concept. Some notable examples include posting a photo of people in public places lying down planking and uploading a short video of people dancing to the Harlem Shake.
A meme can be considered a mimicked theme, including simple phrases or gestures. An Internet meme may take the form of an image, hyperlink, video, picture, website, or hashtag. It may be just a word or phrase, including an intentional misspelling. These small movements tend to spread from person to person via social networks, blogs, direct email, or news sources. They may relate to various existing Internet cultures or subcultures, often created or spread on sites such as 4chan, Reddit and numerous others in our time, or by Usenet boards and other such early-internet communications facilities. Fads and sensations tend to grow rapidly on the Internet, because the instant communication facilitates word-of-mouth transmission.
In the early days of the Internet, such content was primarily spread via email or Usenet discussion communities. Messageboards and newsgroups were also popular because they allowed a simple method for people to share information or memes with a diverse population of internet users in a short amount of time. They encourage communication between people, and thus between meme sets, that do not normally come in contact. Furthermore, they actively promote meme-sharing within the messageboard or newsgroup population by asking for feedback, comments, opinions, etc. This format is what gave rise to early internet memes, like the Hampster Dance. Another factor in the increased meme transmission observed over the internet is its interactive nature. Print matter, radio, and television are all essentially passive experiences requiring the reader, listener, or viewer to perform all necessary cognitive processing; in contrast the social nature of the Internet allows phenomena to propagate more readily. Many phenomena are also spread via web search engines, internet forums, social networking services, social news sites, and video hosting services. Much of the Internet’s ability to spread information is assisted from results found through search engines, which can allow users to find memes even with obscure information.
An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, parody, or by incorporating news accounts about itself. Advice Dog is one of the most famous types of these by giving rise to the Advice Animal image macros we know today. Internet memes can evolve and spread extremely rapidly, sometimes reaching world-wide popularity within a few days. Internet memes usually are formed from some social interaction, pop culture reference, or situations people often find themselves in. Their rapid growth and impact has caught the attention of both researchers and industry. Academically, researchers model how they evolve and predict which memes will survive and spread throughout the Web. Commercially, they are used in viral marketing where they are an inexpensive form of mass advertising.
One empirical approach studied meme characteristics and behavior independently from the networks in which they propagated, and reached a set of conclusions concerning successful meme propagation. For example, the study asserted that Internet memes not only compete for viewer attention generally resulting in a shorter life, but also, through user creativity, memes can collaborate with each other and achieve greater survival. Also, paradoxically, an individual meme that experiences a popularity peak significantly higher than its average popularity is not generally expected to survive unless it is unique, whereas a meme with no such popularity peak keeps being used together with other memes and thus has greater survivability.
Writing for The Washington Post in 2013, Dominic Basulto asserted that with the growth of the Internet and the practices of the marketing and advertising industries, memes have come to transmit fewer snippets of human culture that could survive for centuries as originally envisioned by Dawkins, and instead transmit banality at the expense of big ideas.
Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have embraced Internet memes as a form of viral marketing and guerrilla marketing to create marketing “buzz” for their product or service. The practice of using memes to market products or services is known as memetic marketing. Internet memes are seen as cost-effective, and because they are a (sometimes self-conscious) fad, they are therefore used as a way to create an image of awareness or trendiness.
Marketers, for example, use Internet memes to create interest in films that would otherwise not generate positive publicity among critics. The 2006 film Snakes on a Plane generated much publicity via this method. Used in the context of public relations, the term would be more of an advertising buzzword than a proper Internet meme, although there is still an implication that the interest in the content is for purposes of trivia, ephemera, or frivolity rather than straightforward advertising and news.
Examples of memetic marketing include the FreeCreditReport.com singing ad campaign, the “Nope, Chuck Testa” meme from an advertisement for taxidermist Chuck Testa, and the Dumb Ways to Die public announcement ad campaign by Metro Trains Melbourne.
Flash Gordon and Star Wars
Lucas meet with King Features Syndicate, who held the rights, to talk with them about making a movie based on the classic comic strip and movie serial space adventurer. Lucas says that King Features wanted 80% of the profits, and that they wanted Fellini to direct. Francis Ford Coppola, Lucas’ best bud at the time, thinks that they just didn’t take the movie brat seriously. Whatever the case, George Lucas was unable to make a Flash Gordon film, and so he instead filtered what he loved about Flash Gordon through other influences, including Joseph Campbell and 2001 and came up with a brand new concept that forever changed our pop culture. It’s the synthesis of other influences that makes Star Wars special.
This comes to mind because of the recent court ruling that places all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s pre-1923 Sherlock Holmes stories into the public domain. For fan fiction types this is a technicality only; they’ve long been creating disturbing fiction based on sexualizing the relationship between Watson and Holmes.
The Sherlock Holmes stories published before 1923 were already in the public domain and could be reprinted without licensing. The issue was whether the character itself was in the public domain, and so whether people could use it in derivative works.
The court had to decide if you could separate the elements of the character established in earlier (public domain) stories from those established in later (copyrighted) stories. The other option was that Sherlock Holmes was a singular indivisible character developed over every story he appeared in and therefore not able to be used until every story entered the public domain.
The court ruled that the Sherlock Holmes character was in the public domain, as long as no elements of the character that were established after 1923 were included.
This brings to attention the continuing battle to loosen IP laws so that the public can get their hands on these characters sooner.
I get it from a legal standpoint, but not from a creative one. I know the argument that Shakespeare was basically retooling old stories, and I understand that we take for granted the fact that the Greek gods belong to anyone to use as they please. But is the assertion being made that Shakespeare’s genius came from appropriating prior stories?
All art is built on influences, but the best art is taking a step beyond the influence, not simply replicating it.
What if George Lucas had just been able to make a Flash Gordon movie? Would the elements of Eastern spirituality or the expansive imagination of the first three Star Wars films have ever happened?