As a first approximation, a meme is System behaviour that can be copied.
By copying concrete behaviour, a
Disposition gets transmitted between systems: “an idea, behaviour,
style, or usage … spreads from person to person within a culture”.Merriam-Webster
Thus memes can be understood as transmittable behavioural dispositions.
This means memes are the units of
Evolution. Importantly, and in deviation from the parallel with
genesThat’s how Dawkins (1976) first introduced the
, Cultural evolution is multilevel meme variation, selection and replication. Higher-level, complex memes are called es.
When we understand memes as participants in evolution, we can take
a “meme’s eye view”Blackmore (1999)
and treat the systems it is transmitted between as the Environment in which it survives and which it uses to do so.
- Dawkins (1976): The Selfish Gene
- Blackmore (1999): “Meme, Myself, I”
- Merriam-Webster: “Meme”