Susan Blackmore on Memes and Temes

July 29, 2012

Susan Blackmore is the author of "The Meme Machine" and various essays on memes.  She talks to Steve Paulson about memes and a new kind of meme that she calls "temes."



This author is repackaging lots of people's work in sociology and anthropology with no attribution. As a sociologist, this is so irritating. And the host makes no effort to really push her on her ideas or logic orvwhere she fits in a larger scholarly conversation. Very unmemetic!

Thanks:) for your comment.

It would be great if you could mention few of the sources you are referring to. I'd like to look further into your claims.


She spends too much time promoting herself than explaining the theories themselves.

Yes, I was thinking of Geertz's definition of culture as the set of all symbols a people uses.

But, memes mutate, eh? And perhaps all are related to the Last Common Ancestor...

Interesting that double "me". Listening to this show/article some of my own thinking coalesced. Over the years I have had an ongoing internal discussion about nurture/nature and the meme theory fills in some of the gap, for me. I don't think there is any question about picking up behavior from people around us, even if we
think of something as simple as mimicking accents. Such as, when those of us with the propensity for imitating spend any amount of time in areas, which have a strong, different and familiar enough accent, start speaking with, say, a southern twang.
So, to go on to the nature/nurture aspect of my ruminations, ;-) I expect we would have this ability and inclination to facilitate an easier assimilation into our immediate surroundings as soon after birth as possible. Having the same genes would, perhaps, put us on the same "wavelength" as the donors. And, perhaps, being more "finely tuned" to our parents behavior, would further facilitate their acceptance - in a perfect family situation - of our interpretation / imitation of their behavior. We might have to hide our imitating, no matter how well-intentioned, a teacher, or a friend's voice or walk from that person, yet we usually take delight in watching a young girl who talks and walks just like her mom, while playing "pretend". We also experience this as an accepted illogic, in the phrase, "It's Ok for me to make fun of my mom, but you say that again and I'll punch you."

This is my take on memes, which i have been looking at since 1976, when I read Dawkins original work:

brilliant! great interview!

The distinction will have to be made. Most symbols are obviously replicated, but not directly involved in their replication. In order to be more selfish, mustn't they have more control over their self replication, and be able to do it independently of their hosts?
Rather like genes, most cannot be selfish (sorry Dawkins), but those that can replicate themselves (eg transposons, viruses) clearly can be.

While listening to the series of broadcasts on memes it occured to me that the current interest in memes research is itself an example of memes at work! The concept strikes a cord in others who then replicate it with variations pertinent to their interests/experiences, thereby creating a cultural evolution of memes. In that sense, memes theory is explaining its own continued existence.

Is Susan Blackmore unaware of or choosing to ignore the research that other animals have their own "languages" to communicate? I believe that To the Best of Our Knowledge has interviewed researchers including running stories on many animals such as the prairie dog. Some people who have a dog can understand the differing barks of their pet dog as indicating danger, hunger, wanting play time, wanting to hunt, etc.

I have come to believe that has high standards. Regrettably, the Memes broadcast was well below those standards

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