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What's the difference between a meme and a cultural artifact?

Last posted Oct 04, 2012 at 08:49PM EDT. Added Oct 04, 2012 at 07:21PM EDT
2 posts from 2 users

So we all have an idea of what memes are, we know that memes are ideas and trends that get repeated and passed down in a society’s cultural memory, but this definition seems a little too broad by itself. If meeting this criteria of merely being passed down in cultural memory was enough to be a meme, then we would have to qualify such broad cultural artifacts as language, law, craft, and science all as memes, and I have yet to see the ‘English’ or ‘Biology’ meme entries appear on KYM.

I think there must be some other criteria beyond simply being repeated over time by some culture that causes an idea to be considered a meme. So what else is it? Perhaps a neccesary prerequisite to being a meme is that the idea has to be simple enough to be abstracted out of its original context (advice animals take a image and a basic idea and reapply it to new situations and contexts Ad Nauseum)

What do you think?

Last edited Oct 04, 2012 at 07:23PM EDT
Oct 04, 2012 at 07:21PM EDT

First, it depends on what you’re describing here. Just memes, or actually Internet Memes, as the latter is what KYM is covering. Internet memes are the same as regular memes, only they require to have been spread through the internet (but does not necessarely have to originate from that).

But of course, as you said, if being passed amongst individuals was enough to call something a “meme”, each random inside joke amongst two random dudes on a random IRC channel would already be a meme. This is of course not what is described as a meme by the average internet user.

To me, a meme is exactly like Wikipedia says it: “a concept that spreads via the Internet.”

The moment something reaches significant spread and is discussed and shared amongst individuals, regardless of these results being postive or negative, it has reached the level of meme to me.

I am purposely saying “regardless of these results being positive or negative”. Many people often make the statement that because they don’t like something, it cannot be a meme. Also popular are denying something as a meme due to its origin (Reddit, 9gag) or its type (Advice Animals, Rage Comics).

But what they forget is that these things still contain that one thing that make something a meme, spread. Just because you or your community doesn’t like a meme, doesn’t mean it’s a general opinion shared amongst every individual online. Regardless of how stupid a new meme may be, it did manage to catch on somewhere, or else they wouldn’t have spawned so many images.

A meme is not determined by how funny a person thinks it is, but by it’s spread online. Something people seem to forget all too often.

Last edited Oct 04, 2012 at 09:00PM EDT
Oct 04, 2012 at 08:49PM EDT

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