meme matrix

A common and readily identifiable attribute of memes is their “stickiness”. This can be judged by how long we remember ideas, and perhaps how frequently we revisit or represent them. If we imagine a spectrum of stickiness, perhaps low on the list – the “spaghetti on the wall” level we have the flavor-of-the-week pop songs. In the “white on rice” level we have ideological foundations or values that are very deeply held. This shall be one axis of our matrix.

There is a second attribute of memes that is much more interesting, and I am struggling to find the right term. Let me propose “evangelism” as a new meme metric. Let’s explore

Some ideas we experience and keep to ourselves like a personal though, or memory – perhaps a wish. These are ideas that we keep between our ears and are low on the “evangelism scale”. The next level are ideas that we represent publicly, or request like with bumper stickers or t-shirts. Further increasing in evangelism are things that we actively seek out and request like pop songs. The highest level, are those ideas or practices that we actively recruit for. Let’s take a single type of meme and move it along our evangelical axis.

level 1: Listen to a song and hum it to yourself quietly

level 2: Request the song on the radio

level 3: send the song to your friends “omg, have you heard this yet? it rocks”

level 4: tour with the band and promote it heavily through all media channels and shun people who don’t join the ‘fans on facebook’ group.

Now, when we take the evangelical axis and cross it with the stickiness axis we get a matrix (as advertised). To simplify the examples I will group the examples into quadrants that I will name as follows:

#1) Britney Spears quadrant: (low stickiness, low evangelism) Lots of people listen, it sticks in your head, but people don’t tend to brag to their friends about liking britney

#2) Red Socks quadrant: (high stickiness, low evangelism) These are some of the most die-hard fans around, and fandom is usually a lifelong meme subscription that is represented on clothes and for some becomes a part of their persona. However red socks fans DO NOT recruit others to be fans. You are or you are not.

#3) Chain letter quadrant: (low stickiness, high evangelism) Nobody actually cares what is in these letters, but people recruit like hell for others to pass them on. Lots of facebook apps fall into this category too. People pass them on alot, but nobody really cares or remembers what level zombie you were on facebook.

#4) Obama’s Quadrant: (high stickiness, high evangelism) This is the realm of politics and some religions. Ideas are closely held and actively recruit others to join the cause. There is a guy who stands at park street everyday warning me to repent. He is about  as deep into this quadrant as anybody.

Is any of this useful? This table is simple a way of categorizing types of memes not just for how we interact with them, but how they influence us to spread the ideas to others.


About livingthememe

engineer and armchair philosopher
This entry was posted in cultural practice, social forces and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to meme matrix

  1. ann says:

    I like the two dimensions: stickiness and evangelism – and the examples. How about a graphic: a two-by-two table? Would this increase the stickiness of your blog post, and perhaps help the reader develop other examples?

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