Understanding the meme

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Abby Rabinowitz, writing for Nautilus about memes:

But trawling the Internet, I found a strange paradox: While memes were everywhere, serious meme theory was almost nowhere. Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist who coined the word “meme” in his classic 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, seemed bent on disowning the Internet variety, calling it a “hijacking” of the original term. The peer-reviewed Journal of Memetics folded in 2005. “The term has moved away from its theoretical beginnings, and a lot of people don’t know or care about its theoretical use,” philosopher and meme theorist Daniel Dennett told me. What has happened to the idea of the meme, and what does that evolution reveal about its usefulness as a concept?

Worth setting a little time aside to read this. It give some great history of memes as they’re understood in digital culture, but also the scientific background (and, to some degree, the lack of it) for the behaviour they invoke. The idea of virality is far more complex than we give it credit for.

unsplash-logoHal Gatewood

memesscienceSocial Mediaviral contentviral spread

Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.