In 1976 Richard Dawkins gave science the provocative gift of the Meme concept (in his book, “The Selfish Gene”). Since then this led to elaborations of that concept in many sciences – in evolutionary biology, psychology, brain sciences, anthropology, to mention just a few – all building on the Dawkins view that the Meme was a self-replicating element of cultures — be it a tune or a symphony, a word or a story, an opinion or a major faith — all exhibited in behavior by individual human beings.
Meme is a phenomenon in its own right. But so is the Meme’s actual existence in Social Space. Social Space can nurture the Meme, shape the Meme, store the Meme, activate the Meme, diminish or strangle the Meme, to mention just a bit of specificity. The four dimensions of Social Space I have suggested in my “We live in Social Space” book can help us understand how this shows up. The dimensions are (1) A Second Path, departure from a respectable public path. (2) Closed Moral Worlds. (3) Creating Meaning. (4) Access to the Ultimate.
So, let us consider a thought experiment around one Meme, namely a particular new style of architecture — a self-replicating Meme, in the Dawkins conjecture. From the impact of Social Space:
(1) It produces a drastic departure from currently respectable styles. (Second Path)
(2) It produces a distinctive set of “moral” justifications for itself (whether or not they lead to better living arrangements). (Closed Moral Worlds)
(3) It thereby produces new “meaning” for such architecture. (Creating Meaning)
(4) And thereby, finally, promises to give access to the Ultimate, the supposedly real yearnings by us humans. (Access to the Ultimate)
All this, of course, is stretching things a bit. But you see the drift.