Meme as a Cultural Equivalent of Gene? A Methodological Analysis of the Evolutionary Approach to Cultural Transmission

Agnieszka Jarzewicz


Digital communication by means of memes illustrates a synergistic effect of the interactive mode of participation in cyberspace. Despite a significant contribution of the Internet era to the popularization of the term ‘meme,’ the origin and development of this term are hardly known by Internauts. They usually use this term without reference to an original concept of meme, which was proposed by Richard Dawkins on the grounds of the Darwinian theory of natural selection. The paper revisits that evolutionary conceptualization of meme as an analogue of gene and the process of cultural transmission which was to explain the spread of memes among a certain human population by analogy with biological evolution. It aims to argue that aspiration of memetics towards gaining a scientific status cannot be fulfilled unless meme is redefined in accordance with the theoretical requirements of cultural studies. The provided argumentation is based on the socio-regulative theory of culture and supports scepticism about naturalistic reductionism that is represented by the analysed evolutionary approach to cultural phenomena.

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