Share: The Scientific Controversy Behind Memes

By | February 7, 2017

The Cambridge University site takes a look at the meme fad in modern culture.

An interesting point is often overlooked however. There is an oft-omitted fact about the origin of internet memes: that they are not what the term was originally intended to mean. Tracing back the evolution of the term is a gateway to the surprisingly controversial field of science that inspired memes as we know them.

The internet meme as a concept was first suggested by Mike Godwin in Wired in June 1993 and 20 years later, Dawkins made clear their distinction from his original. This distinction lies in their distribution, altered deliberately by human creativity as opposed to random mutation and selection processes.

Memeticists defend their position, pointing to the ability of metaphors to reveal insights that would otherwise have been missed, but it’s a debate that is unlikely to be decisively concluded any time soon. The mirror criticism of the reliance of internet memes on relatability, and the corresponding alienation of individuals who do not identify with the subject of the memes, is currently just as unresolved.

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