Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mememail, the wave of the long as you tell your friends

I received a couple emails from a friend. One of his emails consisted of a list about how to "Poop at Work", which was a list of smartly termed fart variants, and other related bodily functions, all descriptions couched in a pseudo-clinical fashion so as to bestow legitimacy. Frightfully charming stuff. I chortled. Crop-duster. Haha. The other was video taken from a "closed circuit security camera"which captures a husky dude placing his bare rump on the copier and giggles while the dittos come out. His joy is short-lived as the glass on the copy surface breaks sending his ass into the delicate nest of Xerox(tee em or is it just r?) machinery below. This brilliant piece was titled: Bad Day at the Office. There are other variants of this video out there.

I've seen these before at least 3 times each - usually through the email medium. These things just keep circulating and resurfacing...they're persistent little pieces of cultural material.

Which leads me to my current tirade. I'm going to start calling these emails with the funny/bizarre video or text "mememails". Why? Well 1) it sounds bloody brilliant [been reading a lot of British fiction lately...all those sodding idioms are become more and more familiar], and 2] because it's a near-perfect term for the behavior.

There are a bunch of definitions for a meme. Here are a couple I culled from the internets:
Meme, a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. From the Greek mimëma, something imitated, from mimeisthai, to imitate.

Meme, as defined within memetic theory, comprises a unit of cultural information, cultural evolution or diffusion that propagates from one mind to another analogously to the way in which a gene propagates from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution. Multiple memes may propagate as cooperative groups called memeplexes (meme complexes).
So...if you start using the term mememail, we'll know that we gave birth to a cultural artifact. We'll know it comes from exquisite stock. We'll help raise it through the years, guiding it away from the Perverted Justice haunted chat-rooms, or the superfluously meandering halls of, and leading it to nourishing resources like, or,,,, or, and we'll teach it to sift through the chaff to find the tasty morsels of e-wheat.

I know I'm probably not the first person to coin this term (Richard Dawkins having coined the term "meme" in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene). I found some sources in the ether who included an old link from MIT, which apparently took a pioneering long-view of the phenomenon and had created a repository for these types of emails. The content looks to be from 2001 and is no longer cached anywhere, however, someone did reference the FAQ MIT put up. Check it out here, and do a 'find' on "meme-mail FAQ". I'll just have to live with the knowledge that I offered up a large piece of self-referential memetic material that was later diffused into the human cultural experience.

Good? Yes? Let's get started. Say it with me...mememail (rhymes with theme).

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