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February 2009



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Feb. 12th, 2009

In Defense of Memes 20-25

Meme Defense 20-25Collapse )

25 Points In Defense of Memes 14-19 (Changing from Installments to Numbers for convenience)

Meme Defense 15-19Collapse )

25 Points In Defense of Memes Installment 4 (I think that's right, orig on Facebook)

Meme Defense 11-14Collapse )

25 Points in Defense of Memes Installments Two and Three (orig on Facebook)

Meme Defense 4-10Collapse )

25 Points In Defense of Memes Installment One (orig on Facbook)

There are no rules for this meme. Indeed, I wouldn’t call it a meme so much as a meta-meme. The exigence for this note is the flurry of criticism levied at the oh so popular “25 things” meme on facebook. Claire Suddath, in a small editorial in Time magazine lampoons this particular meme and the writing it produces as “stupid,” “not insightful,” counter-productive to the goals of corporate capitalism (though she doesn’t understand it in this way because she is so caught up in the system herself [thanks to Peter Fontaine for pointing this out]), and “oversharing.” I am purposefully loosely quoting and not citing correctly because she rips 25 random things from friends, friends of friends, etc , without giving a lick of credit, presumably because as “lay writers,” their ownership of their words, ideas, and facts about themselves, does not hold. Or maybe because since it is on Facebook, the owner of these words is now Facebook itself. A triumph of corporate virtual communities controlling knowledge making. Knowledge making? Can I really make the argument that knowledge is being made in these memes? Yep. Sure can, and here I go:

1. Let’s look at what a meme actually is. Most of us have gotten used to this word as a descriptor for viral (in the non-killing your computer sense) internet activities, usually self-revelatory in purpose. But the term is actually rooted in sociocultural theory, specifically in the work of Richard Dawkins, who coined the term in 1976. In keeping with my theme of popular knowledge making, let’s turn to Wikipedia: “A meme (pronounced /miːm/) comprises a unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices; such units or elements transmit from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word mimema for mimic.[1] Memes act as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures.[2]” So then, a meme is to culture what a gene is to the body, loosely. They can manifest in music, writing, in-group codes, etc. Dawkins explains his choice of word to describe this cultural gene thus: “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘ Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds like ‘gene.’ I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate ’mimeme’ to meme” (Dawkins qtd in Blackmore, The Meme Machine 6).

2. With this in mind, what about internet memes? In what ways do they function as traditional memes (which phrase is itself a bit paradoxical, as the nature of memes is to always be in flux)? In what ways do they diverge? Why do some people gleefully participate in them? Why do some people hate memes as well as the people who participate in them? (and is there an analogue for this in “traditional” memes?) Why are some people deeply ambivalent about them but can’t say why? These are some guiding questions that will take us through points 3-25.

3. Internet memes are predicated on narcissism and solipsism, some argue. Most memes ask for specific information or information in specific formats that relate to the identity (perceived by self and others, depending on the meme) of the person participating in meme-making. But one does not do a meme and keep it to oneself. One shares with one’s friends, some of whom may be “real life” friends and some of whom may only be known through the internet (“do internet friends count as real life friends?” is a meme for another day). So memes are inherently social; they are tools not just for self-knowledge, but also for shared community knowledge. In this way, they are relatively useful tools to know facets of one’s friends that may have otherwise remained clouded in mystery. But it goes beyond this. . .

Jan. 20th, 2009

Brand New Day

Today feels good. I watched the inauguration standing around friends and peers and strangers. And I walked from there to class with a lighter step than usual. I am remembering what patriotism feels like. I am grateful for having a leader I can at the very least respect. After all, he can say "nuclear" and he proved that today. The three things detracting from the whole shebang were,  in order of effectiveness to my narrative, Rick Warren's being there at all, let alone being given the honor of offering the prayer, the pairing of communism with fascism as an Other that we have, as a nation, already defeated (I understand the rhetorical move there, but found it to be a bit pandering), and Aretha Franklin's garish headgear. The poem had moments of power, but was, at the end of the day, forgettable. But at least there was a poem, a glaring omission (if I'm not mistaken) in the inaugurations of both Bushes. What's the rhetoric without the aesthetic? I enjoyed being addressed as a citizen. I appreciated being called upon to do my part to make sure that change actually happens. I also appreciated that not just specific religions were cited as integral to our country, but also nonbelievers. I loved the Williams arrangement of a Copeland composition performed by an amazing and diverse array of musical deities. I loved that Roberts fed Obama more words than he could handle; the fact that his nerves got in the way a bit there showed his sincerity when he said he approached this office humbled before it.  He is human, and it would do us all well to remember that.

All in all, a very good day.

Dec. 31st, 2008

band of buggered

A Letter

Dear 2008,
You are in your dying throes now. Usually I have a sentimental turn of mind at this time of the year, looking back to cherish memories of happy times throughout the year. Not this time. True, there has been some good.  Damon and I live in the same house again. Two of our pals got married, by me no less. Two more of our pals made an instant family and are doing amazing things with it. Two more of our pals squoze out a droplet of love who I have, alas, not laid eyes or lips on yet. We celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. And we have reconnected with countless old friends as well as made some new ones.  I won't even list out the bad, as it would be a daunting task to read, and why put ourselves through that?  But I have learned the lesson that some years just plain suck. Some years are fantastic, most years are a good mix of good and bad, and some years just plain suck. You are one of those years. Indeed, you are the leading suck year of my 32 year life. I hope you are proud of this distinguished place of honor.

Here is what you didn't take away from me, 2008: You didn't take away my will to live (close, very close, but not quite).  You didn't take away my belief that life is at least at times good. You didn't take away Christmas.  You thought the third break in on Christmas Eve Eve and the wreck on Christmas Eve would take care of that, but you underestimated my love of Christmas and the power of family to light a dark path.  You didn't take away any of the relationships I hold close to my heart.  You tried, but I got a big fat FAIL for you on that one. You didn't take away my desire to pursue the career I have chosen. This semester could have been a disaster, but it was rescued by the fact that I had such an amazing group of students who picked up my slack and taught me more than I taught them.  I go into my next semester more prepared than I have ever been. This in spite of the constant barrage of crap you have slung at my head.

You have done your damnedest to break me, but you did not. And you have taught me that it is often in these periods of amazing SUCK that we learn the most about life and make the emotional strides that need making. So I suppose I owe you at least a little gratitude. You'll forgive me, I trust, if I don't offer you any.

Go in peace. Wait, strike that.  Get thee behind me, 2008. I'll be sure to give you the finger as the ball drops.
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Dec. 1st, 2008

interesting monster

Word-A-Week Blog Brainstorming

So I've got two on board so far. YAY! If anyone wants to join in at any point, just jump right in. I've pulled a good site that has the full text of Montaigne's essays. He deals more with concepts rather than words, but that's kind of part of what got this whole thing bouncing in my head. The relationship of concepts to words and the attachments that cling to a linguistic structure. Ya know, pretty standard linguistic turn sort of talk. And really, I guess I only thought immediately of Montaigne because he is generally considered the inventor of the essay form, or at least a pioneer in starting that genre. It seems to me that the widespread rise of blogging has some threads of the essay and the meditation. It depends on the blog, of course, and therefore also the author of the blog (hrm--giving the author and the text equal status here, but where is the reader? The reader is always already there (pardon the overt Deconstruction terminology, but it is exactly the right description, so I have no choice)) because of the nature of blogs and blogging. It is a social activity. So, essentially I'm interested in how the sort of exercise of meditating on a very specific subject changes when brought to a social environment and to a text of which the reader is already an understood element. Anyway, I'm saying all that because its been bouncing in my head, and I don't think I'm articulating it very well. But I'm hoping that it will ooze on out a little more clearly over the coming days. So it seems that my purpose in this is twofold: the primary purpose is to explore cool words and their cultural trappings and have fun so doing, and the secondary purpose is to look reflectively at the process itself as it unfolds. Oooo! Fun!

Gigantic Nerd, c'est moi.

Oh the Montaigne Link.

Nov. 30th, 2008

pen and paper

Words, yo

So I've been thinking about doing a weekly word post. I'm thinking choose a word, or if I can get fellow participants in this endeavor, we can collaboratively choose a word or take turns choosing a word or whatever, and write a Montaigne-esque word study on it ( I use Montaigne merely as an example, not as some sort of model that must be followed). Not strictly etymological, of course, though that can certainly play a part, but an exploration of that word's connotative presence in our language. What function does it play besides being a signifier? There've been a lot of words bouncing around in my head lately, revealing new things to me, and I thought it would be fun. Anyone wanna join me?

Nov. 18th, 2008

fountain pen 2

I feel like I should come up with a good subject, but nothing is working

I haven't disappeared again. I've been keeping up with the flist, more or less, and thinking about posting. Just not actually articulating anything. Writer's block I guess. I've been getting somewhat back on solid ground the last two weeks, emotionally. Taking some steps that needed taking, breaking patterns that needed breaking, and feeling an inch or two closer to myself. I am very grateful for this b/c tomorrow I am driving to B'ham for my mom's leg to be amputated. We thought the foot was going to heal, and indeed, it was healing, but an infection popped up elsewhere on the foot, and now it's just a matter of buying more time by cutting off the part of the leg that is getting repeatedly infected. I hate putting it in those terms: "Buying more time." I mean there's the Marxist analysis of commodifying life AND death. Then there's the nihilism (maybe just realism) underlying the entire statement. And to be fair, my summation of the situation is already an interpretation of the facts as presented. She had choices. Risks she could take. This was the path of least resistance and most hope. I'm watching my mother disappear, piece by piece. And I am helpless to stop it. I'm watching my father succumb to overwhelming grief and depression. And I am helpless before it.

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