Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Memes from Dawkins to Godwin to virality

"Meme" was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene" to refer to "a unit of cultural transmission" in parallel to the "gene" as a unit of biological transmission. Though I read the book in 1983, I have only now learned that the internet use goes back to the early 1990s, when Mike Godwin used Dawkins's term to refer to ideas popping up on the internet, specifically the "Nazi-comparison meme" that led him to formulate "Godwin's Law". Of course, the meaning of "meme" has since evolved to refer to image-text combinations that "go viral" – a return to the idea's biological origins, as well as to the current pandemic. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 June)

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