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  • I remember first hearing the phrase internet meme

  • and then being kind of annoyed

  • because people very clearly thought that an internet meme

  • was the only kind of meme there is.

  • We think about culture being eras, epochs or times within art,

  • and so to actually talk about the discrete units that exist

  • that are surrounding us all the time and how they evolve -

  • that was super, super interesting.

  • All the time I was thinking,

  • "God these brands are just going to tear me apart

  • because of what I'm doing."

  • But they're still in on the joke.

  • And you have to be, and that's the thing.

  • You can't be seen as going,

  • "No, I don't want to be a part of this."

  • This is the world we live in, this is it.

  • This is what's going on around us.

  • Do you send a lot of memes?

  • I do yeah, constantly.

  • Rather than communicate, like yeah.

  • That's how I communicate.

  • And they can just say a lot more than one sentence as well,

  • in some situations. True.

  • Yeah, a meme is a written...

  • is a written joke, yeah,

  • that's related to something that happens in real life.

  • I think it also links with this ironic attitude to everything.

  • Where you can just express your disdain, disappointment,

  • a lack of trust in something.

  • So that's why we call it a universal language.

  • It brings you to this part of the internet collective,

  • so you feel that a certain community gets you

  • or maybe you're getting a certain community.

  • I read The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins, back at university

  • and I was really inspired by the idea that you could have these

  • units of culture called a meme that spread from person to person.

  • So Dawkins talked about religion being the ultimate meme -

  • how you can have religion or the idea of God as such an infectious concept

  • that you can't not think about it once you've heard it,

  • but then as it passes from person to person, it evolves.

  • To understand memes,

  • you need to understand the concept of a replicator.

  • That is information that is copied with variation and selection.

  • So genes are a replicator,

  • when animals mate or seeds grow and so on

  • you have information that's copied

  • with variations

  • and huge selection pressure, so most of them die.

  • This is what Darwin saw back in The Origin of Species in 1859.

  • The same applies to memes.

  • All the information that we put out all day long and all the books

  • we read and the radio programs and TV things we watch and so on,

  • they're competing for our attention.

  • Most of them we forget, most of them nobody bothers to watch

  • and the very few that succeed and get millions of people involved

  • are the ones that we see all around us in the world.

  • Same process is happening in biology with a different mechanism.

  • First of all it got a bit of attention

  • but it sort of sat there for a little bit

  • and things and I was thinking, "Ah maybe they're not that funny".

  • And then there was a fashion show in Paris, the Dior show.

  • And at the time Celine Dion was superhype because

  • she was over in Paris and everyone was just going crazy for her.

  • And I saw this image of her with this Dior bag, so I put the Celine logo

  • on top of it and faked it up to look like it was gold,

  • posted it,

  • went to bed,

  • woke up in the morning to a complete tirade of messages on my phone.

  • And Dior had reposted it and it just completely kicked off.

  • When I think of memes I think of them as synonymous with the idea

  • of creating bits of culture.

  • And I think the best advertising and the best design and the best thinkers

  • behind the best advertising, and best design,

  • have always gone out to create bits of culture. And that's memetic.

  • The fact that you've given people the structure for them

  • to find themselves in, they might not have called it

  • memetic or called it memes.

  • It's really important to understand what it means to say

  • genes are selfish.

  • Or replicators are selfish or memes are selfish.

  • What it means is that they will get copied

  • however and whenever they can, given the opportunity.

  • So when we think about the world of memes -

  • internet memes or every other kind of memes -

  • we think we're developing them, designing them, creating them

  • for our own purposes, when a different way of looking at it

  • is they are using us to get themselves ahead in the competition.

  • And that way of looking at it shows you how very close to biology it is

  • and how our role is not to be in charge and doing it for our own sake,

  • it's all really happening for the sake of the memes themselves.

I remember first hearing the phrase internet meme

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A2 meme selfish dior copied replicator celine

A brief history of memes | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2020/10/08
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