Meme facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Richard dawkins lecture
Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

A meme (pronunciation:miːm) is a way of describing cultural information.

One idea is that culture develops in a way similar to living things. Genes move from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution. A meme moves from person to person and changes and develops as many people use it.

Biologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins made the word meme in 1976. He said that tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches were all examples of memes.

Examples of memes

Kilroy was here (re-drawn)
"Kilroy was here" was a graffito that became popular in the 1940s, and existed under various names in different countries, illustrating how a meme can be modified through replication.
  • Technology: cars, paper-clips, etc. The progress of technology is clearly like the progress of genetics, because it also has to spread and go through mutations or changes to progress. For example, many paper-clip designs have been made. Some last longer than others, and some look better than others. In the end the ones that are copied are a memetic success.
  • Jokes spread and change the more they are told.
  • Proverbs
  • Gossip
  • Nursery rhymes: passed on from parent to child over many generations (thus keeping old words such as "tuffet" and "chamber" popular when they are not used today).
  • Epic poems: once important memes for preserving oral history; writing has largely superseded their oral transmission.
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Recipes
  • Fashions
  • Religions: complex memes, including folk religious beliefs, such as The Prayer of Jabez.
  • Popular concepts: these include Freedom, Justice, Ownership, Open Source, Egoism, or Altruism
  • Group-based biases: everything from anti-semitism and racism to cargo cults.
  • Longstanding political memes such As "mob rule", national identity, Yes Minister and "republic, not a democracy".
  • Programming paradigms: from structured programming and object-oriented programming to extreme programming.
  • Internet phenomena: Internet slang. "Internet memes" propagate quickly among users using email, websites, blogs, discussion boards and other Internet communications as a medium.
  • Moore's Law: this meme has a particularly interesting form of self-replication. The conviction that "semiconductor complexity doubles every 18 months" became considerably more than a predictive observation; it became a performance-target for an entire industry once that industry extensively started to believe in the "law". Manufacturers now strive to make the next generation of semiconductor technology re-create the growth in performance of the previous generation, and so maintain belief in Moore's Law. Additionally, the evolution of this meme provides details of interest. The original law described growth in terms of the number of transistors on a chip, but people - more and more—have (wrongly) understood it as describing an increase in terms of performance. This could exemplify how a meme can mutate slowly under the pressure of its environment (partial technical understanding and simplification for use in the mainstream media).
  • Metameme: The concept of memes itself is a meme.
  • Anecdotes: Short jokes or other stories.
  • Phrases; an expression, like "Whasssssup!" or "Where's the beef?" or the Internet meme "all your base are belong to us!"
  • Viral marketing: A type of marketing based on memes and using "word of mouth" to advertise (see the recent example of Snakes on a Plane).
  • Chain-letters

Related pages

Meme Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.