Memes not Genres

“The term ‘meme’ was introduced by the biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. As part of his larger effort to apply evolutionary theory to cultural change, Dawkins defined memes as small cultural units of transmission, analogous to genes, that spread from person to person by copying or imitation. Examples include cultural artifacts such as melodies, catchphrases, and clothing fashions, as well as abstract beliefs (for instance the concept of God). Like genes, memes are defined as replicators that undergo variation, competition, selection, and retention. At any given moment, many memes are competing for the attention of hosts; however, only memes suited to their sociocultural environment spread successfully, while others become extinct.”

Limor Shifman, Memes in Digital Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2014) 9.



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