Lazy Luddite Log

28.4.06

Memes nothing to me...

Sorry for the silly title but hey with any luck that phrase will propagate like a virus across the Internet! Memes: Concepts that transmit between both living and non-living carriers of information. It can be anything from a slogan to a song but for many the word refers to formats or templates for personal writing on blogs and live journals. The ones I have seen recently on other blogs tend to ask the writer to explore themselves as a person.

I always wanted to say...

One such meme asks writers to think of ten people in their personal life to whom they feel there are things they want to say but for whatever reason feel they cannot. You are instructed to write those things you want to say to others but in such a way that they cannot be identified by what is written. Of course whether they can be identified depends on the specific content of the writing and how well a reader knows both the writer and the persons to whom they refer. Having looked at some such writings by disparate friends of mine (from some very different settings and contexts) I have a strong hunch I can identify some of the subjects. And if I can then I bet the subjects themselves can recognise that it is they who have been written about. So if they can identify themselves and if the test is there for the world to see then how is this different from giving them the message that is too difficult to give?

It is cathartic. I personally think that it may be just as cathartic if it were written in a private medium such as a traditional journal. Or it may be just as cathartic to tell these things to a few close friends. And it feels safer to do these things than to tell the person for whom the message is truly intended. The emotions involved in a direct communication or the consequences of giving that person the opportunity to respond may be too challenging to be worth risking. But this halfway house of telling the world via the Internet puzzles me. Is the answer that the level of catharsis grows if we think that many others (even strangers) are sharing it? Or is it that we secretly hope that the subjects of our writings will get to see it?

Those things that make life worthwhile...

Another meme asks writers to list ten 'simple pleasures' they value in life. Of those I have observed everyone names eating (whether particular foods or in general) and sex (always in general) but I was wondering why nobody names sleep! Come on! This is something you get an overpowering desire to have every day and if you miss it you get very dismayed. Imagine - you have had some lovely nosh followed by some superb nooky but now I crash into your home (say I am the host of a new reality TV show entitled 'Sleepless') and subject you to sleep deprivation torture: How do you feel? Depending on how long I deprive you of sleep you may start hallucinating yourself screwing your favourite fillet mignon! But it will be sleep that you want (I am a bit short of sleep right now so that may be why this post has a different feel from my standard writings).

To finish off let me propose a new meme: 1. Go to the blog or live journal of someone other than yourself - it can even be the site of a stranger chosen at random. 2. Examine that blog or journal till you feel you have a satisfactory sense of who that person is. 3. Make a list of the ten things that you think are of most importance to that person. 4. Send them your list asking them if it is accurate (optional). 5. Get some sleep after spending too long online.

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6 Comments:

  • I hate the idea of "memes"; I hate Richard Dawkins. But the word is cute, "me! me!"

    One of the most common bloggish so-called memes is the quiz, which you yourself have produced a few of. Rather than exploration, I'd say that all bloggish memes are about a) self-confirmation and b) grouping. As you might have seen with your quiz, no one does it to find out what they are, but rather to see if it confirms what they know they are. And they do it so they can be in a group with others - and confirm that they have those others pegged.

    Or not. I'm rather sleep deprived too.

    The "10 pleasures" are not the "top 10 pleasures", but just ten that happen to come to mind. Sleep, being rather passive, didn't handily come to mind to me. And I'm not sure it is a pleasure, anyway. A need, certainly; but often an inconvenience. A warm snug bed; Pen next to me; reading at the end of the day; fantastic dreams - these are simple pleasures. Being rested the next day is just necessary.

    And I like sex in general. But, you know, that I have sex should be a public fact, but specific acts are private.

    I like your proposed meme, because I see it as a bit of stirring. As much as I put into my blog, it's only blog-shaped things I put in, like sex-in-general. You might be able to get ten blog-important things from a blog, but miss the ten most important things to a person. Which would be off-putting to the described person. Good.

    (There used to be a thing called Blogger Insider, where you were randomly assigned to another participant (and they to yet another, etc). You would study the other person's blog and come up with a list of questions to ask them, and they would answer on their blog. This all had a week turnaround. Your meme is like the rabid version of Blogger Insider!)

    By Blogger David Golding, At 28 April, 2006  

  • Hmm, "formats or templates for ... writing" - that would be "tropes", right?

    Then you could use "blog trope meme" for that sort of thing.

    By Anonymous Jiri Baum, At 28 April, 2006  

  • hmmm. Don't know if I agree with some of your post?...

    Let's see...Why do I like meme's?

    Because they teach me things about myself I did not know. They are not just about me, But the "me" me =P

    I personally don't read other people's meme answers closely, except in terms of calculating the level their answers surprise me. I read their meme's usually thinking "what would I write?" in mind. What they write isn't necessarily for other people, it is for them. It's not self-confirmation nor grouping for me (I don't think those things have mattered very much to me since high school). But certainly self-exploration.

    As for the meme I posted that relates to this post, I doubt you would be able to identify any of my people, simply because I think only 1 of them you have ever even met. The thing about that particular one to me was that when it comes to things left unsaid to people, the themes are often within a small range of emotions that are difficult to express and that I discovered are common repetitions in my life, so cryslaising those into words taught me a lot about what I am. This might also be why someone might think they could apply them to a number of people particularly ones they think of - there are probably bits of absolutely everyone I know in those answers somewhere. I certainly wouldn't want any of my 10 people to ever read what I said as if it were about them, and I happily know they won't for they don't know me anymore nor would I think they would know or care if I had a blog.

    I'd be.... kind of insulted if anyone decided to read my blog and decide the 10 most important things to me, since the most important things probably don't ever make it to my blog (as Dave puts it, it would be 'stirring'! =P). Blog life... is just a small window to capture me at a moment for me to examine later (and usually with squiring embarressment, but this is good for me and helps me grow). Meme's approach this too.

    Hmm, now I'm going into rant mode! Ah well, that's just how I see things anyways =)

    By Blogger Melinda, At 01 May, 2006  

  • It is worth noting that my comments on web memes are partly shaped by my 'luddite' disposition generally. There are many uses of the web that still bemuse or perplex me. So for instance I have had some friends ask me to fill in an on-line form that will allow them to "keep track of me". Why? I will tell them of any change of contact info as it happens! I am much more likely to do that than to go find some website and change it there. I suppose that sort of thing is attractive for those who resent record-keeping but somehow think the on-line form is simpler or more fun. Teenagers!

    To Dave

    Richard Dawkins - that 'Selfish Gene' dude. Is it what he says you hate or is it the person himself? The concept of genes as the fundamental unit in natural selection rather than organisms is interesting. But I digress.

    For sure my tests are memes and with varying degrees of success. The British Eccentric Test has only been taken a few hundred times but the Political Objectives Test has been taken over 3000 times! Go me! (um... me me...)

    I agree with your comment on self-confirmation and grouping but only to an extent. Many - possibly most - will use them for that purpose. But there are others who have different motives. As the writer of the Political Objectives Test I get very bored every time I see yet another 'social-liberal' (my 'grouping') and am much more interested in seeing different results. But then my attitude to political persuasions is akin to that of a naturalist on a field trip (Oo oo look a Thorny Lancaster Garden Jelly!)

    Now that I look at some of the lists more carefully I see that sleep-related things are present but always as specific things that skirt sleep itself: Sleeping with someone (literally); that moment in which one is conscious of falling asleep; snoozing in on a weekend while dappled sunlight filters into the room; groovy dreams... But then how different is this from food or sex? It is always specific aspects of these things (often in combination with other things) that make them enjoyable.

    You say 'blog-shaped' things which is your way of saying "content appropriate to the medium" but everyone will have a different take on what is appropriate. I think that makes blogs interesting but it is also what may produce confusions and tensions from time-to-time.

    Maybe my proposed meme is a bit of a stir. Having someone tell you that "you are this and that" may be off-putting. But then everyone is interested in what others think of them and in how effectively they present what they are to the world. Yourself as reflected in your blog is different from yourself. But then the same is so for different settings you may move in (e.g. work self versus play self).

    I think my meme will never take off simply because it takes too much effort to do. I took a short tour using the 'next random blog' button on Blogger. It can be fascinating to see several wildly different blogs from all over the world but finding one you want to study closely is another matter entirely.

    To Jiri

    There are these words like 'meme' or 'trope' that I only came across once getting to uni. I must admit I am wary of many such words. Possibly because they tend to be associated with what I regard as wanky professions. Possibly because I feel that the vocabulary a person has acquired by the age of 18 should suffice for almost all occasions. Anyway I am using 'meme' coz everybody is now using it. I think that 'trope' on the other hand can stay in the category of "something someone at uni once told me but now I forget what it is..."

    To Melinda

    The chances of those ten people finding you blog may be small but then all it takes is for them to hit that 'next random blog' button and suddenly find you (photo and all). This is a problem that the word document on your home computer is free of. On the other hand your blog will never be lost in a household fire so I suppose there are pros and cons to everything.

    Kudos to you for having such a disparate array of friends that I can only know two of the ten! I know someone who was once in the habit of deliberately keeping his many friends apart so as to inhibit the transmission of gossip. It seemed a bit excessive to me but then I can also see the benefits of such a strategy.

    I get what you are saying regarding these exercises helping you to get a fuller sense of yourself. I have tended to think "surely a person understands every aspect of themselves instantly". However finding common themes and resonances across different aspects of oneself and ones experiences can sometimes only happen with deliberate introspection. Connecting the dots can sometimes produce surprising pictures...

    By Blogger Daniel, At 02 May, 2006  

  • I've never met Richard Dawkins, so I can't hate "the person"... I'm sure he's a fine person and a fine evolutionary biologist, but he's forays outside his field (memes, anti-religious fervour) stink.

    I'll now retract at leisure (and with more hours sleep) and moderate my original statement by saying "bloggish memes are mostly about a) self-confirmation and b) grouping". And you and Mel (etc) may be (mostly) unusual in your approach to them.

    When I say "blog-shaped things" it is my way of saying "content appropriate for my blog" - obviously different bloggers put in different kinds of things, in different ways, with different emphases. I really mean to say, I've never seen a blog that I imagined contained all of a person's life. But I know lots of people do imagine thus, and could use stirring.

    I think your meme wouldn't take off, because most people only want to know what other people think of them if it confirms what they think the person thinks of them, or is unexpectedly positive...

    By Blogger David Golding, At 03 May, 2006  

  • Just one more thing: Since discussing random blogs I have ocassionally utilised the 'Next Random Blog' as a time-waster and it has become an intersting past-time. You never can tell what interesting concept someone has given to the world. It feels a bit voyeristic but they are all public sites so I suppose it's okay.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 07 June, 2006  

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