Thursday, May 26, 2005

"Self-Replicating Meme"

I was reading an article about the originator of flashmobs. Remember those? His intent was to make fun of the NYC scenesters and instigate them into his contrived scenes. He created a "flashmob" email address ( sent himself an email, then forwarded it to about 50 people. Someone spilled the beans on the first one and the cops were present to quash it.

The second one had a pre-mob location where they passed out fliers saying where Mob #2 would be. This defeated his purpose of it appearing leaderless and having no organizing force, but it got things started.

He was all about making it absurd and playing with the scenesters. He favored commercial spaces that are quasi-public; you're welcome as long as you are a potential customer and are shopping. For instance, a mob descended on Macy's rug department and claimed to be members of a commune in Williamsburg shopping for a "love rug." Or a mob converged on a Toys-R-Us and worshipped a dinasaur; appeared in a small shoe store and got on their phones telling friends how cool the shoes were (he couldn't even get inside for this one), etc.

His intent was to keep doing them until what he called the backlash happened and they became uncool which took about two months. He was surprised that it took off in other cities and globally. What started out as a cynical in-joke on scenesterism spread to be genuine self-expression or political statements.

So back to this phrase, a meme is the cultrual counterpart of genes -- a cultural unit such as an idea, value, pattern of behavior that is replicated and spreads kind of like a virus by repeated action or verbally.

In this interview LINK he claims that some of his friends make a living by creating memes for art projects that involve spreading ideas through the internet. Don't forget that art isn't just something you can look at or listen to -- ideas are creative, too!


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