Memes

In 1974, biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” in his book The Selfish Gene (Gleick, & Rintel).  He defines a meme as a culturally influenced idea and/or behaviour; examples of a meme can be fashion, language, politics, religion, sports, etc (Davison, p. 121-122).  Memes can be compared to the human gene, in which these ideas and/or behaviours of culture can be replicated, mutated, and evolved (Gleick). They can also act like a virus, infecting others of the world with their ideas and/or behaviours and just as genes in Darwinian theory, some memes will survive, and infect more than other memes will (Gleick).

This being said, I believe it is important to note that memes exist online, and offline of the World Wide Web. Internet memes differ from the memes in which Dawkins describes; most Internet memes are used as a satire on ideas and/or behaviors of culture, and gain public outreach, and popularity through online transmission (Davison, p.122). These types of memes, Internet memes, are no longer limited by human transmission, and memory in which offline memes are (Davison, p. 122).  Also, online memes completely overcome space, and time; memes can be seen all around the world within a click of a button (Davison, p. 123).

Although, Internet memes enable the general public to participate Sarah Kendzior’s argues this participation is insignificant; in her article, The Power of the Meme, she states that “memes create the illusion of participation in a political system from which people feel increasingly alienated, a system run on wealth that is incomprehensible to a normal person.”  Kendzior is saying that there is no participation by the general public in the political system amongst this illusion.  As mentioned in her article, a large percentile of the population does not even have access to the Internet (which is essential to participating in online memes), but as well many are not educated technologically, and politically, therefore living outside of the online meme/participation in the political system (Kendzior).

With that being said I completely agree with Kendzior; those who even create the memes are oppressed by those in political, and economical power, despite having access to the Internet, and being educated (Kendzior).  Internet memes simply serve as a satire on culture (in this case politics), and serve their purpose of creating the illusion if participation; these memes are widely, and rapidly spread over social media, masking the larger issues at hand in politics .

Internet memes may not seem important, but offline memes are.  In Dan Dennett’s Ted Talk Dangerous Memes (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes#t-60455) he discusses memes, and how toxic memes can completely wipe out entire cultures, languages, traditions, and practices.  An example a toxic meme (which he mentions in his talk) is the same meme that inspired Osama bin Laden ideas, and behaviours (Dennett). Memes like these need to be of our concern, as they cause conflict, oppression, violence, and discrimination.

Although, Internet memes do not hold much cultural value they could hold more. As stated by Patrick Davison, memes are a part of the unrestricted web; memes allow the general public to have a voice (Davison, p. 120). This unrestricted web also allows these voices to be protected from regulation, and punishment by allowing the author to remain anonymous (Davison, p. 132). With this said, the general public have been provided an outlet to speak but have rather used it for entertainment perpetuating Sarah Kendzior’s illusion of participation.  If used properly, toxic ideas can be eliminated, and those of equality and peace could flourish.

 

 

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