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The Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme: A Structure for the Unit of Culture

by JT Velikovsky (11th December 2013; updated 14th August 2014)

Q: Why are some memes (ideas, processes, products) more viral, in culture?

Why are some movies – and books, ideas, songs, jokes, and philosophies – more (or, indeed, less) popular?

The Four-C model of Creativity bell-curve (Velikovsky 2014)

The Four-C model of Creativity `bell-curve’ (Velikovsky 2014) – derived from Kaufman & Beghetto (2013).

Some ideas, processes and products spread further in culture.

I suggest that movies (i.e.: feature films) are memes, and – that memes are holon-partons.

I therefore wish to suggest:

(1) A structure for the Meme – the unit of culture;

(2) The structure of Culture itself as a holon-parton;

and

(3) The laws and mechanism of Bio-Cultural Evolution.

These structures, laws – and indeed this mechanism – have novel[1] features which are of considerable cultural and biological interest.

What follows is therefore a proposed Grand Theory of Culture.

What is `culture’?

In 1952, in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions, Kroeber and Kluckhohn located and published over 150 varying meanings and definitions of `culture’ (Kroeber & Kluckhohn 1952).

In 2007, Van Peer et al concluded `As far as can be seen, there is no consensus on the notion of culture anywhere to be found.’ (Peer, Hakemulder & Zyngier 2007, p. 30)

However, Csikszentmihalyi (1996) defines domains, and culture:

A domain `consists of a set of symbolic rules and procedures… Domains are in turn nested in what we usually call culture, or the symbolic knowledge shared by a particular society or by humanity as a whole.

(Csikszentmihalyi 1996, pp. 27-8 – bold emphasis mine)

While it may currently be problematic to define culture, we can suggest they are: ideas, processes and products. (Csikszentmihalyi 1996)

Examples would include ideas: for say, cars, or scientific theories (e.g.: How to split the atom), movies, songs, philosophies, religions; processes (e.g. behaviours, such as gestures, the process of having a conversation; the process of making a car [and all the sub-processes involved]); and products (e.g. a car, a word, a language, a song, a novel, a movie, an atomic bomb).

Memes

In The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976) the English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins defined a meme as “a unit of cultural transmission” (Dawkins 2006, p. 196).

`The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation… Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.’

(Dawkins 2006, p. 196).

`The unit of culture’ – the meme – has therefore been proposed (Dawkins 19761982); developed in (Hofstadter 1983, 1985), discussed in the Journal of Memetics[2] from 1997-2005, and also, among many other publications, in (Dennett 1995), (Blackmore 1999; 2007), (Aunger 2002), (Distin 2005), (Saad 2012); and criticized (Benitez-Bribiesca 2001), (Pinker 2009) etc. in the emerging and evolving domain of Memetics.[3]

The Domain of Memetics

Notably however, the domain of Memetics has been stalled, most probably due to a major problem in the domain of Memetics, primarily, as: `the structure of the unit of culture’ has not yet been scientifically and empirically defined, identified – or otherwise `discovered’.

Memetics (the study of Culture) therefore awaits its `Watson and Crick (1953)’ moment, when the structure of DNA (in Biology) was correctly identified.

In a 2009 Harvard lecture, the eminent evolutionary psychologist and linguist Professor Steven Pinker (rightly) stated:

`…just empirically, the idea of memetics, of a science of cultural change based on a close analogy with natural selection, it is just a fact: it’s never taken off. It’s thirty-five years old almost at this point. Every five years a paper appears that heralds the final development that we have all been waiting for – of a science of memetics – and nothing ever happens.’

(Pinker 2009b)

With all of the above in mind – this thesis therefore asserts that: the meme, the unit of culture is the holon-parton:

Definition: The Meme – the `unit of culture’ – is the holon-parton.

The structure of the meme (the unit of culture/the unit of selection, in culture) is the holon-parton. 

Figure 1 - The structure of the meme - the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Figure 1 – The structure of the meme – the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Note that, this holon-parton structure (see diagram above) is fractal: it contains copies of its own structure, within itself, or displays structural self-similarity on smaller and smaller scales. (For more, see also, Turner 1999).

(Note also, that the number of holon-partons within each holon-parton can vary. It is certainly not always: just two. Just as – not every atom only has one proton, neutron and electron. See: The Periodic Table of the Elements. But – each atom is still: an atom. In fact, every atom is a holon-parton.) Koestler’s (1967) diagram of a holon has 3 holons in each. The number of holon-partons in different objects vary, before they become a new, emergent whole.

Yet also – all new ideas (when analyzed) can be viewed as: a combination of two old ideas. This notion itself actually goes back (at least) to Liebniz, in 1666 (Liebniz was one of the inventors of calculus, along with Newton, and for more on `scientific multiple discoveries’ – such as Darwin and Wallace with the theory of Evolution – see Simonton (2004) Creativity In Science).

Liebniz’ 1666 thesis was on the idea of `an alphabet of ideas’, whereby any two ideas could be combined, to give all other possible ideas. Koestler (1964, p.35) also had the same idea with what he called bisociation (1964, p.35), and Boden (2004, pp.3-10) called this `combinatorial creativity’. Namely: combine two old ideas to get a new idea. (Notably – this process doesn’t always work; the Field then has to judge the new idea as `working’ – i.e. solving problems – or, not. This process, of selection of good (and the de-selection of `bad’) ideas is known as evolutionary epistemology, or, the systems model of Creativity).

Below is a `top view’ and a `side view’ of the holon-parton (and, I suggest that memes – i.e. ideas processes and products – are structured this way).

The holon-parton structure of the meme - the unit of culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014)

The holon-parton structure of the meme – the unit of culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014)

On holons (and thus, holon-partons)

In The Ghost in the Machine (Koestler 1967), Koestler coined the term holon:A holon … is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part’ (Koestler 1967, p. 48).

And – in his book Photon Hadron Interactions (Feynman 1972) Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard P Feynman discusses partons (1972, pp. 160, 163, 254, et al).

I contend that this `partons’ concept is the exact same concept as Koestler’s `holons'; I have therefore combined both terms, to give the term `holon-parton’, as I believe it reflects more accurately the concept of physical objects – or, artifacts (e.g., universes, galaxies, solar systems, planets, atoms, hadrons, quarks, animals, plants, cells) and also cultural objects (memes: ideas, processes, products) that are simultaneously a part, and also a whole, at the same time.

Koestler also defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons. (Koestler 1989, p. 103) See also: (Koestler 19641967).

As Funch (1995) also notes, holons in holarchies: (1) compete [and I contend, also co-operate] with other holons (holon-partons) on the same level; (2) integrate into holons (or, holon-partons) in the level above them; and (3) command [and control] holons (or, holon-partons) below them. (see: Funch 1995)

These laws of holon-parton interactions in holon-parton hierarchies (or, what I call: `holarchy-partarchies’) are also laws of Evolution, systems, and cybernetics. Systems are also holon-partons.

A `side view’ of the holon-parton of: The Biosphere. (See also: Living Systems, JG Miller, 1978)

Holarchy of Biology

Figure 2 – A holarchy-partarchy of Biology

Obviously there are more than two ecosystems in the Biosphere (the above diagram is only conceptual, not literal – as a literal diagram gets too detailed too quickly, to be useful), although just hypothetically, we might perhaps decide to split the Biosphere into two: `land’ (continents) and water (ocean). In fact – some say there are 8 biomes that make up the biosphere: Africa, Australia, Arctic, Antarctic, North America, South America, Asia, and Russia. Or, viewed another way (and in no particular order): grassland, desert, tropical rain forest, temperate rain forest, tundra, taiga, temperate deciduous forest, and scrub forest. (Again, for more see Living Systems, JG Miller, 1978; see also The Systems View of Life, Capra & Luisi 2014)

Below is an example `top view’ (transparency) of a holon-parton (or, holarchy-partarchy).

(Actually, this is a `transverse cross-section’ of a holon-parton / holarchy-partarchy).

Figure 1 - The structure of the meme - the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Figure 1 – The structure of the meme – the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Example of another holarchy-partarchy:

A holarchy of holons

A holarchy-partarchy of holon-partons

These holon-partons comprise systems, as per systems theory (Von Bertalanffy 1950; Koestler 1964, 1967, 1978; Csikszentmihalyi 1988; Laszlo & Krippner 1998; Sadowski 1999).

As Brett Cooke also notes in Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explorations in the Arts (1999):

`Sociobiology and with it biopoetics not only promises to contribute to the cross-matrix sciences concerned with our behaviour, it is best equipped to account for the structure of the matrix itself, thanks to the particulate manner of genetic and, possibly as well, memetic transmission.

(Cooke in Cooke & Turner, 1999, p. 106)

This thesis asserts that all memes (cultural: ideas, processes and products) – which are holon-partons – are also ideas – when abstracted in the human mind.

A meme can be an idea, process or product (or combinations thereof.) But all are still: ideas.

A meme (holon-parton) can be: an idea, process or product (or combinations thereof.) But – all are still: ideas in the human mind, when perceived and abstracted mentally by humans.

Memes and memeplexes (holon-partons / holarchies-partarchies) function via the 3 Laws of Holarchy-Partarchies. See also: (Funch 1995).

The following is an (adapted) extract from Funch’s online essay “Holarchies” (Funch 1995), which paraphrases Koestler (1964, 1967) on holons and holarchies: (or holon-partons; or holarchy-partarchies). I have changed the term `holon’ to `holon-parton’.

  • “A holon-parton is a node in a holarchy-partarchy.
  • [1] A holon-parton looks up for what it needs to integrate with.
  • [2] It looks sideways for what it needs to compete and/or co-operate with.
  • [3] It looks down for what it wants to command and control.
  • Each holon-parton cannot be fully explained by or predicted by a study of its parts. It is something more. A holon-parton is also part of something bigger that it is being affected by. But at the same time it has a high degree of autonomy, it has a life of its own.” (Funch 1995)

Given these three laws above, clearly there are also forces in operation, in holarchy-partarchies.

All cultural evolution (science, the arts, language; all creativity) works via: selection, variation (e.g.: combine two memes; i.e.: Koestler’s `bisociation’), and transmission-with-heredity. See: (Csikszentmihalyi & Wolfe 2000).

Creativity and Cultural Evolution

Creativity and Cultural Evolution (Csikszentmihalyi & Wolfe 2000 p84). This diagram shows meme (idea/process/product) selection, variation, and transmission.

Renowned creativity researcher Csikszentmihalyi mentions memes 7 times in Creativity (1996), as does EO Wilson in Consilience (1998).

Memes (units of culture, or holon-partons) are at the centre of the systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2014):

Csikszentmihalyi Systems Model from Henry

The Systems Model  of Creativity – Csikszentmihalyi in (Henry 2006, p3). Meme (idea/process/product) selection, variation and transmission.

 

`An outline of the Systems Model – This environment has two salient aspects: a cultural, or symbolic, aspect which here is called the domain; and a social aspect called the field.

Creativity is a process that can be observed only at the intersection where individuals, domains, and fields interact [see Figure].

For creativity to occur, a set of rules and practices must be transmitted from the domain to the individual.

The individual must then produce a novel variation in the content of the domain. The variation then must be selected by the field for inclusion in the domain.

Creativity occurs when a person makes a change in a domain, a change that will be transmitted through time.

(Csikszentmihalyi in Henry, 2006, p. 3)

The Field – `The field… includes all individuals who act as gatekeepers to the domain.’ (Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly 1996, p. 28) Csikszentmihalyi also clarifies:

`The role of the Field – What does it take for a new meme to be accepted into the domain?

Who has the right to decide whether a new meme is actually an improvement, or simply a mistake to be discarded? In the systems model, the gatekeepers who have the right to add memes to a domain are collectively designated the field. Some domains may have a very small field consisting of a dozen or so scholars across the world. Others, such as electronic engineering, may include many thousands of specialists whose opinion would count in recognizing a viable novelty.

For mass-market products such as soft drinks or motion pictures, the field might include not only the small coterie of product developers and critics, but the public at large. For instance, if New Coke is not a part of the culture, it is because although it passed the evaluation of the small field of beverage specialists, it failed to pass the test of public taste.

(Csikszentmihalyi 2001, p. 9 – emphasis mine)

Csikszentmihalyi updated the model in 2014, (in the Wiley Handbook of Genius, edited by DK Simonton, 2014). It is now called the Domain, Person, Field interaction systems model of creativity:

General model of creativity (in the Wiley Handbook of Creativity, ed: DK Simonton 2014)

General model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 2014, in the Wiley Handbook of Creativity, Ed: DK Simonton 2014). Domain, Person, Field interaction.

Given his formulation of the mechanics of creativity (the Domain, Individual, Field interaction systems model, or Domain, Person Field interaction in 2014), Csikszentmihalyi can be viewed as “the Charles Darwin of creativity”: his model explains its mechanism – via the systems model of creativity.[4] DK Simonton also uses the DIFi (or, DPFi) systems model extensively, including in his analysis of scientific creativity (Simonton 2004), and also in film (Simonton 2011).

The Feature Film Domain as a System (derived from Csikszentmihalyi 1996)

The Feature Film Domain as a System (derived from Csikszentmihalyi 1996)

All cultural artifacts, and all domains in culture – as ideas – are also memeplexes in human minds (e.g.: languages, scientific theories, religions, novels, films, songs, etc.).

Please note – Ideas (memes/holon-partons) are discrete packets of information. Just as genes – in DNA – are `packets of information’ (i.e.: DNA is a product, and also contains within it: ideas, and processes, i.e. Instructions on how to build amino acids, and instructions for building an organism/phenotype). Genes are self-copying, via DNA in biology, and memes are also self-copying – via minds – in culture.

Genes (DNA molecules) are systems; they are holon-partons – and likewise memes (ideas, processes, products) are holon-partons.

So too, any meme is also `packets of information’ – ideas – and a `whole packet of ideas’ is a holon-parton. Ideas are holon-partons, and are arranged in holarchy-partarchies, or memeplexes (holarchy-partarchies of memes/ideas).

This definition (or: `discovery’) of the structure of the units of culture (memes as holon-partons) would encompass many prior suggestions for the definition/structure of the meme, including (but not limited to) the various categories of: tropes, motifs, patterns, themes, configurations, complexes, ideas, beliefs, values, rules, principles, symbols, and concepts (see: (Chick 1999)).

Though each of these individual categories, when compared literally to each other are not exactly all the same thing (that would be a conflation, and therefore a category error), each of those things is, indeed, a meme, and a memeplex; a holon-parton and a holarchy-partarchy.

A question of ontology: Are memes real?

Yes. Memes – whether ideas, processes, products – when they become ideas in a mind – are abstractions in the human mind, but nonetheless are indeed real. An idea in a brain is: the real firing of real neurones, which can be filmed (Muto et al. 2013) [5]. See also: `Can We Measure Memes?’ McNamara 2011.

If we view memes as ideas, processes, products: ideas are real. Cultural (social, and material production) processes are real. Cultural artifacts (i.e., products) are also real. Language (and words) for example, are: a product.

Memes (or as units, holon-partons) emerge in culture when they are created via the evolutionary algorithm, and in accordance with the three laws of holarchy-partarchies. 
The illustration below demonstrates holon-partons (memes) in culture, with some paragraphs.
The holon-parton structure of a written language (Velikovsky 2014)

The holon-parton structure of a written language (Velikovsky 2014)

Likewise, on the same level, all these memes compete and/or co-operate with each other (when a writer writes, they select words from competing words, and when the selected words co-operate [operate together] satisfactorily, the writer then transmits them into the sentence they are writing, and into their manuscript).
If it works, (and the manuscript is selected for publication) the book (as a meme, as a holon-parton) will then be transmitted into the wider culture (i.e. published, and so, that new book is a meme, and a memeplex, a holon-parton) and – other writers may then select: various ideas, words, sentences, etc. from that meme (that first book). For example, readers (who are also, authors, researchers, scholars, themselves) might cite a sentence or a paragraph, or some of the ideas (as holon-partons) from the book may influence their own thinking and writing. These subsequent writers may then vary and transmit these memes, and the creativity (or, evolutionary epistemology, of selection, variation and transmission) cycle continues. (Sometimes there is little or no variation of the meme, it may be selected and then transmitted verbatim. But creatives might select a meme [idea], then vary it, then transmit it back into culture.)
So, the 3 laws of holarchy-partarchies apply (which are also laws of Evolution – as, biological organisms also compete and/or co-operate on the same level of the holarchy/partarchy, integrate upwards and command and control downwards).
This is also why I suggest that the systems model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2014, etc) is the same phenomenon as evolutionary epistemology (Popper 1963, 1999) (DT Campbell 1960, 1965, 1974, etc) (Simonton 1984-2012) (Koestler 1964, 1967, 1978), (Gontier 2006, 2014).
Various examples of memes/holon-partons in culture – in accordance with the three laws of holarchy-partarchies – are listed below. (Please note, these lists below are not arbitrary; each successive category describes a higher level in the holon-parton, or the holarchy-partarchy. For example, alphabetical letters are `parts’ that make up a whole word; words are whole words but are parts of a sentence; a sentence is a whole sentence but part of a paragraph – and so forth.)
  • Novels: ideas > letters > words > sentences> paragraphs> chapters> novel
  • Films: ideas> action/dialog lines>shots> scenes> sequences> acts> film
  • Science: ideas> facts>laws> phenomena>theories>meta-theory>paradigm
  • Religion: ideas>facts>interpretations/scriptures>believers>spiritual leaders (human) >messiah (human/metaphysical)> deity (metaphysical) >faith> religion
  • Poems: ideas>letters>words>stanzas>poem
  • Music – Popular songs (lyrics): ideas>letters>words> verse / chorus / bridge > song
  • Spoken Languages – phonemes > morphemes > words > sentences, etc,
  • Technology: fuel, oil, water, air, materials (metal, rubber, vinyl, etc) > car parts > car > a city (and, a state, and, a nation) full of cars.   
  • And so forth.

Note also that Koestler (1978) wrote, regarding language:

`Let us note that nowhere on the upward or downward journey through the linguistic holarchy do we encounter hard and indivisible `atoms of language’. Each of the entities on various levels – phonemes, morphemes, words, sentences – is a whole relative to its parts, and a subordinate part of a more complex entity on the next higher level. For instance, a morpheme like /men/ is a linguistic holon which can be put to many uses – menace, mental, mention, mentor, etc; and which particular meaning it will assume depends on the context on the next higher level.’

(Koestler [1978] 1979, pp. 35-6 – bold emphasis mine)

[NB - I still suggest that we call them `holon-partons', and not just holons, as it is more consilient that way. i.e. aiming to unit the sciences and the arts, even perhaps, in a very small way.]

Creative fields and domains (such as the film industry) are also holarchy-partarchies:

  • Ideas > Screenplay > Screenwriter > Producer > Financier > Film > Domain of Film > Culture
A holarchy of the Movie Field - and Domain - and Individuals - or, the DIFi systems model as a holarchy (Velikovsky 2013)

A holarchy/partarchy of the Movie Field – and Domain – and Individuals – or, the DIFi (or DPFi) systems model as a holarchy/partarchy (Velikovsky 2013)

As biology is ordered in holon-partons (holarchy-partarchies) (i.e. hadron > atom > molecule > cell > organelle > organ > organism > population > community > biosphere > heliosphere ) so too, society (human > family > community > state > nation > humanity) and domains in culture (see the examples above: novels, music, film, science, the arts, etc) can be seen to be organized in holarchies/partarchies.

Examples – note that, each level of the holarchy-partarchy below is: a meme; a holon-parton. (It is a whole, and also a part.)

Holarchy of Novels

Holarchy-partarchy of Novels

Holarchy of Science

Holarchy-partarchy of Science

Holarchy of Religion

Holarchy-partarchy of Religion

Importantly, there is no (human) Culture without (human) Biology.

Physico chemico bio psycho socio culturo politico directed evolution

Physico chemico bio psycho socio culturo politico directed evolution

In the diagram above, Directed Evolution refers to memetic enginering: or meme-gene directed co-evolution.

In cultural creativity (and, cultural evolution), given the DIFi (or DPFi) systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi, M 1988, 2014), (Sawyer 2012), (Simonton 2004), and the same phenomenon, evolutionary epistemology (Popper, DT Campbell etc) selection takes place at the level of the meme (the holon-parton).

Memes (ideas, processes, products) compete in the human mind, and are selected, varied and transmitted-with-heredity.

Transmission is via word-of-mouth, and/or via symbolic systems (e.g. books, movies, songs, other media, electronic communications, etc.). Transmission means that the meme is copied (even if with mistakes; this is also often the `variation’ part) into more human minds. (See Dennett 1995 for more, i.e. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea).

Over time, memes can evolve (mutate), and hybrid memes also emerge (e.g. portmanteau words such as: guesstimate, and `Brangelina’ and holon-parton; and, of course films (movies) that are the result of a screenwriter combining two prior film story ideas/memeplexes; the film ALIEN (1979) can be seen as JAWS  (1975) meets 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), for example.).

How Does Cultural Evolution Work?

The systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988-2006) – and the same phenomenon, evolutionary epistemology (Popper 1963, 1999; DT Campbell 1960, 1965, 1973; DK Simonton 1984, 2010, 2012) explains the mechanism of cultural evolution.

Notably this evolution is biocultural, or: meme-gene co-evolution, as both occur at once: it is a confluence model.

For the evolutionary spiral of memes in domains over time, see Koestler (1967) on the evolution of ideas, a la Garstang 1922 (Koestler 1967 [1989], pp. 168-9).

In a 1922 journal article, evolutionary biologist Walter Garstang expressed how the biological evolution of a species proceeds, until it reaches a (literal) `dead end’, and then an earlier incarnation (that still exists) may split off – and may succeed in adapting and thriving for some time. In The Ghost In The Machine (1967), Arthur Koestler also applied this model to the evolution of ideas (i.e.: memes):

 

Garstangs evolutionary spiral

Garstang’s evolutionary spiral (Koestler 1967 [1989 p168])

To clarify, in Garstang’s model, the evolution of a species begins at Z (bottom of the diagram). As evolution progresses (`upwards’ in the diagram) it eventually meets `dead ends’ at the left side (the A’s) – and then, earlier, less `evolved / specialized’ species may branch off, towards the right side (the Z’s) and progress leftwards until they too reach `dead ends’ (meaning: they are not well adapted for survival in their environment, and can risk going extinct). Koestler explains how this mechanism also applies to ideas and culture, including scientific revolutions, but also literature and art:

`Garstang’s diagram could also represent a fundamental aspect of the evolution of ideas. The emergence of biological novelties and the creation of mental novelties are processes which show certain analogies.

It is of course a truism that in mental evolution social inheritance through tradition and written records replaces genetic inheritance.

But the analogy goes deeper: neither biological evolution nor mental progress follows a continuous line from A6 to A7. Neither of them is strictly cumulative in the sense of continuing to build where the last generation has left off. Both proceed in the zigzag fashion indicated in the diagram.

The revolutions in the history of science are successful escapes from blind alleys. The evolution of knowledge is continuous only during those periods of consolidation and elaboration which follow a major breakthrough.

Sooner or later, however, consolidation leads to increasing rigidity, orthodoxy, and so into the dead-end of overspecialisation – to the koala bear.

Eventually there is a crisis and a new `break-through’ out of the blind alley – followed by another period of consolidation, a new orthodoxy, and so the cycle starts again. But the new theoretical structure which emerges from the break-through is not built on top of the previous edifice; it branches out from the point where progress has gone wrong…

In the history of literature and art, the zigzag course is even more in evidence: Garstang’s diagram could have been designed to show how periods of cumulative progress within a given `school’ and technique end inevitably in stagnation, mannerism or decadence, until the crisis is resolved by a revolutionary shift in sensibility, emphasis, and style.

(Koestler 1989, pp. 168-9 – emphasis mine)

What Koestler explains here can be seen to apply to: all memes – (i.e. all ideas, processes, products).

(1) The evolution of scientific knowledge, and all technology – with regard to the systems model of creativity (see: (Kuhn & Hacking 2012), (Simonton 2004))

(2) The evolution of styles, ideas, `movements’, fads, and `crazes’ in art, fashion and music (in fact, in all domains of Culture).

(3) The way in which the concepts/memes of consilience (Wilson 1998) and literary Darwinism (Carroll 1995) have reinvigorated the Arts and Humanities – in order to rescue it from a crisis of stagnation and irrelevance / blind alleys. (See: (Carroll 1995), (Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010),  (Carroll et al. 2012) (Gottschall 2008)).

Notably – literary Darwinism is also the combination of two successful memes/holon-partons: literature, and Darwinism. This is also, an example of Koestler’s explanation of `bisociation’/creativity/problem-solving.

(4) The evolution of Genres, styles and techniques in the domain of Filmmaking (which includes screenwriting/screen storytelling) – and also – in novels, and songs, and poetry, painting, dance, cooking, etc. (i.e. in any creative domain).

As a side note – we are now arriving at the Theory (or: synthesis of theories) used in this StoryAlity Theory empirical analysis of the creative person, process and product in the top and bottom 20 RoI (return-on- investment) films. This is a Gran Theory of Culture: memes (units of culture) as holon-partons that function and evolve via the laws of holarchy-partarchies, or the laws of evolution.

These top 20 RoI films in the StoryAlity Theory study are the top 20 most viral feature films ever, when comparing: audience-reach to production budget. Since these films are viral memes (as are many of the ideas within the films), the Question is: What exactly is a meme…? And – how do they work…? (This paper, and post is: a proposed or suggested answer to those questions.)

Also just to clarify the notion of meme Transmission-with-heredity: When an idea (or meme) is selected, it is a memeplex/holarchy-partarchy: it contains other ideas/concepts within it (e.g. the idea/concept of `a car’ contains `within it’ the idea of wheels, and doors, engine/s, fuel, the idea of transport, etc.)

When the whole idea (meme, or holon-parton) moves from one human mind to another, many or all the smaller/component ideas (holon-partons), are also `inherited’. These `component ideas’ within an idea are inherited. Each mind of course has different associations in their own memeplex of the idea of `car’. Yet many – or possibly even all – the `component ideas’ are also inherited.

To recapitulate:

The structure of the meme (the unit of culture/the unit of selection) is the holon-parton. 

Figure 1 - The structure of the meme - the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Figure 1 – The structure of the meme – the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

If the structure of memes are identified in this way (as holon-partons, and holarchy-partarchies; as memes/ memeplexes), it is in theory (and ideally also in practice) now possible to further develop a Science of Memetics, with:

1) Hypotheses;

2) Assumptions and Laws;

3) Assumptions about Initial Conditions;

4) Predictions; and

5) Observation and Experiment,

- as per What Is This Thing Called Science? (Chalmers 2000) and see also Creativity In Science: Logic, Genius, Chance, Zeitgeist (Simonton 2004), Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics (DK Simonton 2011), The Screenplay Business (Bloore 2013) and The StoryAlity Theory Screenwriting Manual  (Velikovsky 2013).

In this way, we might empirically measure – and track – various memes (as holon-partons) in culture: When exactly they emerged; How viral they are (or, were); When they evolved into hybrid forms; and, thus – What makes a film/novel/song go viral in culture?, etc.

Notably – this thesis (memes as holon-partons) suggests that each Domain in Culture (e.g.: Film, Music, Novels, Poetry, Painting, Photography, Cooking, Dance, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, etc) is an ecosystem, that operates under the 3 laws of holarchy-partarchies.

The mechanism of culture: the Selection, Variation and Transmission-with-heredity of memes

For example, The Film Field, and Domain -

Holarchy of the Film Field and Domain (Velikovsky 2013)

Holarchy-partarchy of the Film Field and Domain (Velikovsky 2013)

In this view, all of culture is a holon-parton. It is also a holarchy-partarchy. It is also a meme. It is also a memeplex. (These are all the same thing.)

Starting from the `bottom level’ of holon-partons (i.e. memes) in the holarchy-partarchy (as pictured above):

(1) Ideas exist in the meme pool (i.e.: in Culture). They are in such things as: television programs, on the news, in novels, in other films, in gossip (“word-of-mouth”), etc. – We are all constantly `swimming’ in the meme pool, immersed in culture. Whenever they write, Screenwriters select (whether consciously – or otherwise) some of these ideas/memes/holon-partons.

Combinatorial Creativity (or bisociation)

Combinatorial Creativity (or `bisociation’)

(2) Screenwriters select, vary (e.g. combine with other ideas) and then transmit these ideas (as: words) into their…

(3) Screenplays. A screenplay is a meme. It is a holon-parton, and a holarchy-partarchy. It is also a memeplex. (These are all the same thing.)

(4) Screenwriters (as per, The 3 Laws of Holarchy-Partarchies) `command and control’ their screenplays. They also seek to integrate with Producers, on the level of the holarchy-partarchy above.

(5) Producers `command and control’ screenwriters (and indeed sometimes – the ideas, in the screenplay). Producers select, vary and transmit these screenplays `upwards’ – to Film Financiers.

(6) Producers must therefore integrate with Film Financiers to raise the budget for the film. Film Financiers select, vary and transmit film projects (memes: a film is a holon-parton and a meme) into culture. (Of course this is group creativity, but every film costs money, and so – without financing of some kind – a film does not happen.)

(7) Produced films emerge from the system (as memes, memeplexes, and holon-partons), and out into the Field (to film audiences, critics, teachers, theorists, etc.)

(8) These films (memes, holon-partons) enter the Domain of Film, where the Field (audiences, critics, etc) `judge’ the film as creative (`novel and appropriate’) – or: not. (This creativity can be measured in terms of: commercial and/or critical success.) Films thus are selcted by the Field as a whole, to enter the canon (or conversely, are `deselected’ and then they do not enter the canon of film).

(9) Various Domains - such as the Sciences and the Arts (including: music, and the visual and tactile arts, etc.) comprise…

(10) Culture. (i.e.: The `meme pool’.)

Given the systems model of creativity, (and evolutionary epistemology) this process can all be seen as a recursive and iterative loop, over time. (As Culture/the meme pool is both at the `top’ and `bottom’ of the above holarchy: we have returned to `the source’). Ideas (memes, as holons) are selected from culture – varied – and then transmitted-with-heredity, back into the culture.

An example (selection, variation, transmission-with-heredity) is where films (screen ideas) are pitched (by screenwriters, directors, producers, etc) as Film `A’ meets Film `B’. (i.e., `Jaws’ meets `2001′, say.)

A film – as with all culture – and all units of culture – is a holon-parton/meme.

The 3 Laws of Holarchy-Partarchies apply. These are just the laws of evolution: compete and co-operate sideways (ie with other holon-partons); integrate upwards (into the holon-parton on the level above); `command and control’ (holon-partons on the level below) downwards.

Holarchy of Film Structure Shots Scenes Seq etc

A Holarchy-Partarchy of Film Story Structure

Another way to analyze a film meme/holon-parton is below. Each of these holon-partons is a meme. (e.g.: a line of dialog from a film can go viral in culture: eg “Play it again, Sam.”, “I’ll be back.”, “The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club…”)

Also, a (fictional) Character (as – a concept/idea/meme) can become a viral meme (e.g.: Ron Burgundy, Darth Vader, Harry Potter, etc.).

In the domain of religion, the ideas of: Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha are all viral memes.

Another holarchy of film

Another holarchy-partarchy of film

In summary:

The meme – the unit of culture – is the holon-parton

The structure of the meme (the unit of culture/the unit of selection) is the holon-parton. 

Figure 1 - The structure of the meme - the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Figure 1 – The structure of the meme – the unit of culture: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013; 2014)

Given all of the above – for An Outline of a Science of Memetics, see this next post:

StoryAlity #101: A Science of Memetic Culturology.

See also: Facebook Data Scientists Prove Memes Mutate And Adapt Like DNA by Josh Constine

And – for more detailed information on memes/holon-partons, please see also, the following StoryAlity weblog posts:

On Cultural Evolution – and Memes

  1. StoryAlity #44 – Biological Evolution, Cultural Evolution, and Creativity: Film
  2. StoryAlity #45 – On Movie Memes and Memetics (and: How Memes Work)
  3. StoryAlity #45B – On Tracking Memes in The Meme Pool
  4. StoryAlity #46 – On Mayans, Memes, Creativity, Darwin and Dawkins
  5. StoryAlity #47 – Why are some Screenplays/Films more `viral’ Memes?
  6. StoryAlity #47B – More on Memes & Film (and: 3 solved problems in Memetics)

On Holon-Partons and Holarchies

  1. StoryAlity #48 – On Film Holons and Holarchies – and How Holarchies Work
  2. StoryAlity #49 – On Movie Screenplays, Viral Memes, and Cultural Evolution

On Cultural Evolution in Transmedia

  1. StoryAlity #64 – Why Transmedia Is Destiny

And – for screenwriters, directors, producers, actors, etc:

The StoryAlity Screenwriting Manual

  1. StoryAlity #67 – The STORYALITY™ Screenwriting Manual: out now on Kindle

Alternately – you might even like to read the entire StoryAlity blog:

The StoryAlity weblog – Index:

http://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/

StoryAlity Spirality

- Comments always welcome.

—————————————————

JT Velikovsky

Film Story Analyst/Researcher and High-RoI Film/Story/Screenplay Guru

The above is an adapted excerpt from my doctoral thesis: “Understanding And Exploring The Relationship Between: Creativity; Theories Of Narratology; Screenwriting; And Narrative Fiction Feature Film-Making Practices.” It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting and filmmaking researchers.

JT Velikovsky is a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/

NOTES


[1] and appropriate. For definitions of creativity, see also: (Simonton 2013)

[2] Journal of Memetics (1997-2005): http://cfpm.org/jom-emit/

[3] I only note some of the key references on Memetics here. Tyler has assembled an extensive bibliography of memetics references/literature, at: http://memetics.timtyler.org/references/

[4] Dr Susan Kerrigan has also further developed a model of the systems model of creativity. See:
http://storyality.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/storyality-43b-the-creative-practice-theory-agent-based-model/

[5] Footage of a zebrafish larva’s thought: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131144419.htm and http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(13)00002-X although notably Richard Feynman suspects everyone thinks (imagines/conceptualizes) differently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lr8sVailoLw

 ———————————————

REFERENCES

Aunger, R 2002, The Electric Meme: a New Theory of How We Think, Free Press, New York.

Benitez-Bribiesca, L 2001, ‘”Memetics: A Dangerous Idea”‘, Interciencia: Revista de Ciencia y Technologia de América (Venezuela: Asociación Interciencia), vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 29-31.

Blackmore, SJ 1999, The Meme Machine, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Bloore, P 2013, The Screenplay Business: Managing Creativity in the Film Industry, Routledge, London; New York.

Campbell, DT 1974, ‘Evolutionary Epistemology’, in PA Schlipp (ed.), The Philosophy of Karl Popper, La Salle, Illinois, vol. 1, pp. 413-59.

Capra, F & Luisi, PL 2014, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Chalmers, AF 2000, What Is This Thing Called Science?, 3rd edn, Open University Press, Buckingham.

Cooke, B in (Eds) Cooke, B., & Turner, F. 1999, Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explorations in the Arts. Lexington, Ky.: ICUS.

Csikszentmihalyi, M 1988, ‘Society, Culture, and Person: A systems view of creativity’, in RJ Sternberg (ed.), The Nature of Creativity, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 325–39

Csikszentmihalyi, M & Wolfe, R 2000, ‘New Conceptions and Research Approaches to Creativity: Implications for a Systems Perspective of Creativity in Education’, in KA Heller, FJ Mönks, R Subotnik & RJ Sternberg (eds), International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent, 2nd ed. edn, Elsevier, Amsterdam; Oxford.

Csikszentmihalyi, M 2014, ‘The Systems Model of Creativity and Its Applications’, in DK Simonton (ed.), The Wiley Handbook of Genius, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester, West Sussex.

Dawkins, R 1976, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

—— 1982, The Extended Phenotype: the Gene as the Unit of Selection, Freeman, Oxford Oxfordshire; San Francisco.

Dennett, DC 1995, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Simon & Schuster, New York.

Distin, K 2005, The Selfish Meme: a Critical Reassessment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.; New York.

Feynman, RP 1972, Photon-hadron Interactions, Frontiers in Physics, W. A. Benjamin, Reading, Mass.,.

Feynman, RP 2005, Don’t You Have Time To Think?, Allen Lane (Penguin), London.

Funch, F 1995, Holarchies, online essay. Funch, <http://www.worldtrans.org/essay/holarchies.html>.

Gontier, N 2006, ‘Introduction to Evolutionary Epistemology, Language and Culture’, in N Gontier, JPv Bendegam & D Aerts (eds), Evolutionary Epistemology, Language and Culture, Springer, Belgium, pp. 1-29.

Gontier, N 2014, Evolutionary Epistemology, http://www.iep.utm.edu, http://www.iep.utm.edu/evo-epis/

Heylighen, Francis (many excellent and ground-breaking papers on memes, cybernetics and evolutionary epistemology, including: 1992, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2008) http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/PapersFH2.html

Hofstadter, D 1985, Chapter 3, `On Viral Sentences and Self-Replicating Structures’, in Metamagical Themas, Basic Books, New York. (Chapter reprinted from the 1983 article in Scientific American).

Kaufman, JC & Beghetto, RA 2013, ‘Do people recognize the four Cs? Examining layperson conceptions of creativity’, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 229–36.

Koestler, A 1964, The Act of Creation, Hutchinson, London.

—— 1967, The Ghost In The Machine, Hutchinson, London.

—— 1989, The Ghost In The Machine, Arkana, London.

Lovelock, J 1995, Gaia: A New Look At Life On Earth, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Oxfordshire; New York.

McNamara, A 2011, ‘Can we measure memes?’, Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, vol. 3, no. 1. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnevo.2011.00001/abstract

Miller, JG 1978, Living Systems, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Pinker, S 2009, Post-lecture commentary on `Brains, Computers, and Minds’ with Professor Daniel Dennett, Harvard University, viewed 25th November 2013, <http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k69509&pageid=icb.page334500&pageContentId=icb.pagecontent698262&view=watch.do&viewParam_entry=32931&state=maximize#a_icb_pagecontent698262>.

Popper, KR 1963, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. (Essays and Lectures.), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London.

Saad, G 2012, ‘Nothing in Popular Culture Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution’, Review of General Psychology, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 109–20.

Sawyer, RK 2012, Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, 2nd ed. edn, Oxford University Press, New York.

Simonton, DK 2004, Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York.

—— 2011, Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics, Oxford University Press, New York; Oxford.

—— 2013, ‘What is a creative idea? Little-c versus Big-C creativity’, in K Thomas & J Chan (eds), Handbook of Research on Creativity, Edward Elgar Publishing, Northampton, MA, pp. 69-83.

Simonton, DK 2010, ‘Creative thought as blind-variation and selective-retention: combinatorial models of exceptional creativity’, Physics of Life Reviews, vol. 7 (June), no. 2, pp. 156-79.

Simonton, DK 2012, ‘Fields, Domains, and Individuals (Chapter)’, in MD Mumford (ed.), Handbook of Organizational Creativity, Elsevier Science, Oxford, UK, pp. 67-86.

Velikovsky, JT 2013, Why Transmedia Is Destiny, StoryAlity weblog, WordPress, <http://storyality.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/storyality-64-Why-Transmedia-is-Destiny/>.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

P.S. – Some people have asked why `Creativity Guy’ is holding up those 3 intersecting rings:

Right before your very eyesThe reason is – Csikszentmihalyi and Wolfe’s definition of `creativity’ in their (2000) article: namely, that a creative idea/process/product is one that is original, valued, and implemented.

General Model of Creativity Source: (Csikszentmihalyi, M & Wolfe 2000, p. 81)

General Model of Creativity
Source: (Csikszentmihalyi, M & Wolfe 2000, p. 81)

For a more detailed discussion on the definition of creativity, see this excellent article by Prof DK Simonton:

What is a creative idea? Little-c versus Big-C Creativity (DK Simonton, 2013)

See also: Kaufman, JC & Beghetto, RA 2013, ‘Do people recognize the four Cs? Examining layperson conceptions of creativity’, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 229–36.

And see also: the definitions of creativity at Eugene Gorny’s excellent site on Creativity.

Some more books/articles I can highly recommend:

The Screenplay Business by Peter Bloore (2013)

Screenwriting Poetics and the Screen Idea by Ian W. Macdonald (2013)

And – for more on the Screenwriting Research Network, please see this post.

And see also – these excellent chapters:

Creativity As A System in Action – Phillip McIntyre

A systems view of film-making as a creative practice by Eva Novrup Redvall

And see the book: The Systems View of Life (Capra & Luisi 2014)

 

Suggested citation:

Velikovsky, JT (2013, 2014) `The Holon-Parton structure of the Meme: A Structure for the unit of Culture’, StoryAlity #100, StoryAlity weblog, WordPress. http://storyality.wordpress.com/ 

(URL: http://storyality.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/storyality-100-the-holonic-structure-of-the-meme-the-unit-of-culture/)

 

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39 thoughts on “StoryAlity #100 – The Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme – the Unit of Culture

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