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A formal Outline of a Science of Memetics

by JT Velikovsky (11th December 2013; updated 30th July 2014, March 2016)

(1) Definitions, (2) The Theory, and (3) some Heuristics for –

The scientific paradigm of Memetic Culturology

In the previous post, I identify: the meme – the unit of culture, as the holon-parton.

This book chapter is intended begin the formal Science of Memetic Culturology:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

The rest of this post is basically just a summary (or – a different explanation) of, that chapter.

This is a cross-section of a meme. It is a holon-parton and a holarchy-partarchy.

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

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

Below is a cross-section (or top view, if the meme is transparent) and, a side view.

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)

Below is an `unpacked side-view’. As the diagram above shows, the `highest’ holon-parton in the holarchy contains all the holon-partons (in their various smaller / `lower’ levels of the nested hierarchy) within it. (e.g. below – a Solar System contains planets; planets contain continents, etc.)

A holarchy of holons

A holarchy-partarchy of holon-partons

So – after 35 years – if we have finally identified the unit of culture, the meme – as: the holon-parton (Velikovsky 2013, 2016) – now, what do we do with it?

In a 2009 Harvard lecture, 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 2009)

The following is an attempt to address that specific problem, and to thereby provide a solid footing for the Science of Memetics. As is this chapter:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

I would propose that the proposed domain might be called `Memetic Culturology’. Or for short, just Culturology.

Vertical integration of Disciplines (Velikovsky 2014)

Vertical integration of Disciplines (Velikovsky 2014)

A formal Science of Memetics (or Culturology) would enable scientific and empirical research across many disciplines, including: Evolutionary Psychology, Evolutionary Sociology, Ethology, Cultural Anthropology, the Humanities (including History and Philosophy) and the Creative Arts. (Some elements of this paradigm may possibly also be applicable to the domain of Biology, Chemistry, Physics.)

Such a science would allow us to investigate

(1) What `culture’ is, exactly (empirically and scientifically);

(2) How it works (its operational mechanisms, and also the laws under which it operates); and

(3) How we might also, therefore, shape (or `direct’) culture in the future, in ways that may be beneficial to humanity – including potential benefits to both biological and cultural (or – biocultural) evolution.

On the value of Memetic Engineering

This third goal above is devoutly to be wished, as creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noted in Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Csikszentmihalyi 1996):

`The future is in our hands; the culture we create will determine our fate. This is the evolution that Jonas Salk calls metabiological, or E.O. Wilson and others call biocultural.

The idea is the same: survival no longer depends on biological equipment alone but on the social and cultural tools we choose to use.

The inventions of the great civilizations – the arts, religions, political systems, sciences and technologies – signal the main stages along the path to cultural evolution.

To be human means to be creative.’

(Csikszentmihalyi 1996, pp. 318-9)

(If we can analyze, understand – and then deliberately create – viral memes, we can get on with solving inequality, poverty, climate-change, and ending all wars, etc.)

Examples would be (say) films, novels and songs – addressing/providing solutions to these issues. (Including, convincing conservatives that climate-change is: real.)

The Hierarchy of the Sciences

In his book-chapter `Fields, Domains and Individuals’ in Handbook of Organizational Creativity (Mumford, 2012), Simonton presents the following table, showing the hierarchy of various scientific disciplines:

Figure 3 - Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both field and domain. (D. K. Simonton, 2012, p. 74)

Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both Field and Domain. (D. K. Simonton, 2012, p. 74)

A symbolic representation of overlaps in these disciplines is as follows, with my own addition of a science of memetics – which examines culture and the spread of memes (ideas, processes and products) within culture (both scientific, and also artistic).

Overlaps in scientific disciplines / domains (Velikovsky 2013)

Overlaps in scientific disciplines / domains (Velikovsky 2013)

In the excellent anthology, Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader (Boyd, Carroll, & Gottschall, 2010) Gottschall states:

`I argue for a much more vigorous branch of literary research based in the scientific method. I do not merely suggest that literary studies should be “more scientific” (whatever that means), or that scholars should know more about science (as C.P. Snow averred in The Two Cultures), but that literary scholars should actually do science; where possible, we can and should make use of science’s powerful methodology.’

(Gottschall in Boyd, et al., 2010, p. 468)[i]

Here is the scientific method:

The Scientific Method

Using consilient – and empirical and scientific – methods, scholars of literature and the creative arts can make original and valuable contributions not simply to cumulative empirical and scientific knowledge, but can also provide practical and effective (`no-nonsense’) guidelines for cultural practitioners – for example, for feature film screenwriters, and filmmakers – directors, producers, actors, editors and so forth. (This was always the purpose and intention of the StoryAlity Theory research.)

As a professional film creative and an academic scholar, it is for all these reasons that I enthusiastically support both consilience, and literary Darwinism. (Another reason is simply, due to logic, given that: evolution in biology and culture work the same way. Creativity in both biology and culture work the same way: bisociation. Combine two people and you get a new person. Combine two ideas [ie. memes/holon-partons] and you get a new idea [new meme/new holon-parton].)

Another key reason, is that given scientific and empirical research on creativity and in particular (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) (D. K. Simonton, 2004) (D. K. Simonton, 2011) (Sawyer, 2012), I currently am personally convinced by the evidence that biological and cultural evolution both function via the evolutionary algorithm, namely: selection, variation and transmission-with-heredity (with genes in biology, and with memes in culture) – and therefore, that universal Darwinism (Dawkins in Bendall, 1983; Blackmore, 1999; Dennett, 1995), appears to be some kind of natural law.[iii]

What are the requirements and features of any scientific `paradigm’/ research program?

What, therefore, might be the ideal parameters, guidelines and heuristics – and the functional specifications – for a scientific paradigm for memetics?

An overview of the metasciences (i.e.: the history, philosophy, sociology and psychology of science) covering some the key theorists in the area, namely The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn & Hacking 2012), The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Popper 1990), Against Method (Feyerabend 1984), What Is This Thing Called Science? (Chalmers 2000), and Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist (Simonton 2004) reveals that `scientific paradigms’ (in Kuhn’s terms) or `research programs’ (in Lakatos’ terms) have the following elements:

1)    Hypotheses (which researchers come up with, using creative-problem- finding)

2)    Assumptions and Laws (which researchers agree upon)

3)    Assumptions about Initial Conditions (which are defined)

4)    Predictions (which researchers make, based on their hypotheses)

5)    Observation and Experiment (which researchers do, which correlate with – or, as per Popper, falsify – hypotheses)

Furthermore, ideally as Lakatos outlined, any scientific research program (or paradigm) should have a `hard core’ – and a `protective belt’. Notably also, with regard to the tendencies of different disciplines, Simonton states:

`Four Possible Perspectives – Scientific creativity is a topic addressed by many distinct disciplines or what have been termed metasciences (Gholson et al 1989; Simonton 1988b). The most important of these metasciences are the history of science, the philosophy of science, the sociology of science, and the psychology of science.

Not surprisingly, each of these metasciences has a somewhat distinctive outlook on the phenomenon. Part of the disciplinary variation may result simply from contrasts in methodological techniques and substantive interests.

Where historians prefer narratives, philosophers favour analyses. While sociologists like to discuss institutions, psychologists like to look at individuals. Nonetheless, some of the differences among the metasciences are also based on the essential fact that scientific creativity can be examined from four principle perspectives: logic, genius, chance and zeitgeist.’

(Simonton 2004, pp. 3-4 – emphasis mine)

Outline of a Science of Memetics – Heuristics

As outlined above, a scientific paradigm requires: (1) Hypotheses (2) Assumptions and Laws (3) Assumptions about initial conditions (4) Predictions and (5) Observation and experiment. In Creativity in Science (2004), DK Simonton notes:

`Assumptions – …Let us begin by recognizing that each individual scientist operates in a specific disciplinary context. That context consists of two essential components – namely the domain and the field. (Csikszentmihalyi 1990, 1999). The domain consists of a large but finite set of phenomena, facts, concepts, variables, constants, techniques, theories, laws, questions, goals and criteria. These can be collectively referred to as the population of ideas that make up a given domain. These ideas are equivalent to the “hooked atoms” in Poincaré’s (1921) imagery.’

(Simonton 2004, pp. 43-4)

Taking the above as inspiration, I will now propose a domain for Memetic Culturology:

(1) Phenomena for study: (i.e.: If you are a student/scholar/researcher in the Humanities/Arts, please pick one or more of these, to study, using Memetic Culturology…

Any and all cultural artefacts – including (but not limited to): Words, Languages, Proverbs, Aphorisms, Dialog lines, Catchphrases, Novels, Films, Song lyrics, Songs (including `instrumental’ tunes, i.e. without lyrics or vocals, necessarily), Poems, Essays, Textbooks (in science and the arts), Visual Artworks (photographs, paintings), 3-dimensional artworks (sculptures, art installations), Audio-visual art (films, television, videogames), religions. Also: all non-genetically transmitted human behaviours, actions, processes.

(2) Facts: Empirical data on the number/popularity of the above, and their growth and decline over time. For example, how many copies a novel or a popular song has sold over specific intervals of time (ideally including estimates of bootlegging, piracy and illegal copies under copyright law), box-office figures on how many people saw a film in its theatrical release (and possibly also, on ancillary media, such as DVD, BluRay, television screenings and repeats, video-on-demand, internet streaming, etc)

(3) Concepts: The systems model of creativity – in both the arts and the sciences (Csikszentmihalyi 1996), (Simonton 2004); the theory of holons (or, holon-partons) and holarchies (Koestler 1964, 1967), (Funch 1995); the theory of evolution (Darwin, Dawkins, etc), biocultural evolution (Wilson 1998) (Brian Boyd 2010), consilience (Wilson, Carroll, Gottschall), evolutionary psychology (Pinker, Dutton), and memes (Dawkins, Blackmore, Dennett), and Cultural Evolution (Velikovsky) (Koestler) (Csikszentmihalyi) (Mesoudi) etc.

(4) Variables: across time, the cultural zeitgeist, including values, morals, ethics and aesthetics of audiences en mass evolve. (This is a function of disciplinary zeitgeist: for example the acceptance of Darwinian evolution by the public was enabled by scientists first accepting it. Notably, Kuhn notes all scientific revolutions are initially resisted. There are many reasons for this but at the same time there is nothing so powerful – and viral – as an ideas whose time has come. See: all scientific and artistic and cultural revolutions.)

(5) Constants: The structure of the meme. For details, please see this post: StoryAlity #100: Holonic-Partonic structure of the meme. (Notably, memes can have varying amounts of sub-memes within their holarchies. But see Koestler on bisociation: all new ideas/memes are essentially just: a combination of two old ideas.)

(6) Techniques: Empirical research, observation and analysis, using the scientific method. See van Peer (Muses and Measures, 2007). 

(7) Theories: see `(3) Concepts’, above. Memetic Culturologists should obviously create as many theories as they can, and then test them out – try and falsify them. Creativity works best when you generate a lot of ideas; you have a bigger `meme pool’ to select the best ideas from.

(8) Laws: Universal Darwinism (the evolutionary algorithm of: selection, variation and transmission-with-heredity) work the same way in biology and culture. The laws of holarchies (Koestler 1964, 1967, Funch 1995, Velikovsky 2013).

(9) Questions: (These are some examples/suggestions.)

1. What is culture?

2. Do only humans – or do some (or, all) animals have culture? (I personally believe they do. )

3. Do plants have culture-? (As crazy as that currently sounds.)

4. How does culture work?

5. How can we use culture to our/life’s/the planet’s advantage? How have individuals and groups done this in the past? How might we do so (better) in the future? What current problems might be thus solved? What new problems might emerge? What are the real and potential dangers (physical, social, cultural, ethical)?

6. What are the possible consequences if this knowledge falls into the wrong hands? Whose are “the wrong hands”? (Is it: the advertising industry?) – What are the risks? (see also: Csikszentmihalyi (1996) on “the axe-maker’s gift”).       

(10) Goals: Understanding and explaining how culture works. Directing culture for the betterment of humankind/life. Solving local and global problems, such as: inequality, poverty, hunger, environmental problems, animal and plant extinctions, discrimination, intolerance, religion, war.

(11) Criteria: A meme (holon-parton) must be examined in comparison to other memes (holon-partons) on the same holarchy level: compare domains with domains (eg physics with chemistry, or novels with films), compare books with books (eg compare Harry Potter to Sherlock Holmes, say), characters with characters (say, Hamlet with Spiderman), sentences with sentences, etc.

More On The Scientific Method

It strikes me that, many people do not apparently understand what Science is.

Science is problem-solving. (See: Koestler 1967, and Popper’s All Life Is Problem-Solving)

The Scientific Method – The origins of the scientific method can be dated back to Thales in the 6th century BCE, but more recently is dated to the 17th century.

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method

When Science is successful, it provides solutions that work.

Some random examples:

Problem: How to split the atom?  Solution: Nuclear fission, or fusion.

Problem: How to get to the moon? Solution: Build a rocket ship, fly it upwards, and try not to miss the moon.

Problem: Human-created climate change. Solution: Firstly, convince enough people that the problem is real. Then there will be enough researchers working on possible solutions – to increase the probability that a solution will be found sooner. (Al Gore did a lot, with An Inconvenient Truth.)

Here is an interesting article on that: The Memetic Evolution of Solutions to Difficult Problems.

An example Holarchy of Science Journals:

Holarchy of Science Journals

Holarchy of Science Journals

Falsifiable hypotheses of Memetic Culturology

I am not suggesting all of these (below) are even good ideas; some are very-easily falsified, others are not. The point is, we need to generate a lot of them (falsifiable hypotheses) and then empirically and scientifically test them, as: That’s how you do Science.

Some hypotheses worth testing in the domain of Memetic Culturology:

  • The structure of the meme, the unit of culture, is the holon-parton.
  • Biology, Culture, Creativity and Evolution all work via the evolutionary algorithm (Selection, Variation/Combination, and Transmission-with-heredity).
  • All memes are either ideas, or processes or products, or two of these, or all three.
  • Hybrid vigour (see: Darwin) results for `child’ memes, when two `parent’ memes of very different `species’ (domains, genres, etc) are combined. (e.g.: Anthropology + Maths = the Theory of Evolution). The more viral the parent memes (ideas, processes, products) have been in the recent past, the more viral will be the new child meme. (i.e.: Gutenberg: the wine press + the coin punch = the printing press. Telephony + computers = the internet, etc.)
  • Inbreeding depression (see: genetics) also results when two memes that are too similar (in the content of the memes in their holarchy) are combined. (e.g. A Western genre movie crossed with a another Western movie only gives another Western movie. But a Western crossed with a Science Fiction results in say Star Wars (1977), or in TV, Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Then again it can also result in Cowboys vs Aliens, which was not a commercially successful movie/did not go viral in culture. )
  • The languages, and the spelling of words (in dictionaries) evolves over time to become simpler, more phonetic, more streamlined, more efficient. Why did Latin go extinct? (Is it extinct? Or did parts of it evolve into other languages? It is still used a lot in academia.) The spelling of `encyclopǣdia’ over time has become `encyclopedia’. (See also Darwin on languages, Chapter 3 in Descent (Darwin 1952, pp. 300-2)
  • Loan-words and portmanteau words in a language solve problems in an economical cost/benefit ratio (e.g.: zeitgeist, bra, Brangelina). On cost-benefit ratios, see also Boyd’s chapter `Art and Evolution: The Avant-Garde as Test Case – Spiegelman in The Narrative Corpse in (Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010)
  • All popular novels, films, songs, poems can be seen to have at least two `parent’ memes, that were combined to produce them. (e.g. Harry Potter combines the memes of, among other things, English boarding schools and wizardry. Twilight combines: romance novels and the Gothic horror memes of vampires and werewolves.) The `parent memes’ of all works of literature can be identified in this way.
  • Religions and Sciences – as memes – directly compete with each other. Memes which `solve’ emotional problems (e.g.: That there is no life after death is perhaps horrifying and tragic) can nullify/defeat/out-compete memes which solve problems of reason, logic, reality and verifiable truth.
  • Some memes also absorb and integrate – or even consume and destroy other memes/memeplexes. (Like a virus in biology.)
  • New scientific theories that work better (reflect reality more accurately, and/or solve more problems) than old theories will tend to dominate their scientific domain.
  • The environment of a book (a novel) is its possibility space: in theory, any book could sell 7 billion copies in a year. (Discuss. Then, let’s do some empirical research. How many people can afford to buy a book? How many people can read? How might we solve world poverty, inequality and illiteracy? Memes and creativity, and culture, and cultural evolution are the answer.)

A holarchy of Memetic Culturology

I would suggest the following disciplinary holarchy of nested domains.

Memetic Culturology

Memetic Culturology

A holarchy of Memetic Culturology (or: Evolutionary Culturology)

Creativity and Evolution are the same thing (selection, variation, transmission-with-heredity), therefore this is the overall suggested domain. Within that domain are the nested domains of Evolutionary: Biology, Psychology, Sociology, and Culturology. For now, I have kept the word Memetics, so that we do not lose any good insights from the past 30 years of Memetics, although – to be fair, it is really just: Evolutionary Culturology. (I would expect the title will evolve in popular usage, from `Memetic Culturology’ to `Evolutionary Culturology’ over time.)

Evolution (i.e. creativity) is what causes – and drives – both biology and culture. Human evolution is biocultural evolution. It is also: bio-psycho-socio-cultural evolution.

Memetic Culturology – A Suggested Reading (and Viewing) List

In line with the above disciplinary holarchy, and in suggesting:

(1) the holon-parton as a structure for the meme, the unit of culture;

(2) the holon-parton and holarchies as the structure of all culture; and

(3) selection, variation and transmission-with-heredity operating according to the laws of holarchies – as the mechanism of cultural evolution,

I have synthesized ideas of Darwin, Dawkins, Dennett, Csikszentmihalyi, Bourdieu, Simonton, Funch, and in particular, insights from Koestler.

If any of the ideas presented in this paper seem wrong (or do not make sense), I would first suggest the reading list below. After reading this list of books and articles (ideally in the specific order presented), and especially the books by Koestler and Csikszentmihalyi, I predict that most people will understand all the ideas/memes (all the holon-partons) that make up the entire concept (i.e.: on the next level `up’ on the holarchy) that I have presented here.

It is even possible that, if these ideas are correct, a true Science of Memetics (Memetic Culturology) might result, and even: take off/evolve/survive and reproduce.

  1. Sawyer, RK 2012, Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, 2nd Edn, Oxford University Press, New York.
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, M 1996, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, 1st Edn, HarperCollins, New York.
  3. 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 Edn, Elsevier, Amsterdam; Oxford.
  4. Koestler, A 1989, The Act of Creation, Arkana, London.
  5. Koestler, A 1989, The Ghost In The Machine, Arkana, London.
  6. Chalmers, AF 2000, What Is This Thing Called Science?, 3rd Edn, Open University Press, Buckingham.
  7. Simonton, DK 2004, Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York.
  8. Kuhn, TS & Hacking, I 2012, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 4th edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago ; London.
  9. Wilson, EO 1998, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1st edn, Knopf: Distributed by Random House, New York.
  10. Darwin, C & Carroll, JE 2003, On The Origin of Species, Broadview Press, Calgary, CA.
  11. Dawkins, R 2006, The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  12. Dennett, DC 1995, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, Simon & Schuster, New York.
  13. Cooke, B & Turner, F 1999, Biopoetics: Evolutionary Explorations in the Arts, ICUS, Lexington, Ky.
  14. Boyd, B, Carroll, J & Gottschall, J 2010, Evolution, Literature and Film: A Reader, Columbia University Press, New York.
  15. Carroll, J 1995, Evolution and Literary Theory, University of Missouri Press, Columbia.
  16. Gottschall, J 2008, Literature, Science, and a New Humanities, 1st edn, Cognitive studies in literature and performance, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
  17. Peer, W v, Hakemulder, J & Zyngier, S 2007, Muses and Measures: Empirical Research Methods for the Humanities, Cambridge Scholars, Newcastle, U.K.
  18. See also the three excellent “manifestoes” for evolutionary literary study that Joseph Carroll, Jonathan Gottschall and Brian Boyd contributed to Scientific Study of Literature 3 (2013).
  19. Watch all the presentations from the “Integrating Science and the Humanities” Workshop (2008): http://www.sci-hum.pwias.ubc.ca/videos.php
  20. Watch EO Wilson’s (2005) talk on his book launch of From So Simple A Beginning (a collection of 4 of Darwin’s works he edited): http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SoSi

A Kuhnian scientific paradigm for Memetics?

This article itself is: an experiment in memetics. It combines older, very successful memes (ideas) and should itself therefore have: hybrid vigour, as a meme.

If this new suggested structure for the meme (i.e.: the holon-parton) presented herein is accepted by the field of Memetics, then I will also aim to subsequently publish a more detailed (suggested) scientific paradigm (or `research program’ in Lakatos’ terms) for the empirical and scientific study of memes, biology and culture.

A final note on consilience

The Sciences, the Social Sciences and the Humanities/Creative Arts, are traditionally and customarily viewed as three completely-separate domains and disciplines:

Three Branches of Learning

Three Branches of Learning

A view of `the three great branches of learning’ as: separate Disciplines

However in Consilience (1998), EO Wilson notes `bridges’ or connections (and, overlaps) between these 3 domains are ultimately inevitable:

Consilient Convergence

Interdisciplinary study: consilient convergence

Another (more comprehensively integrated/synthesized) view of this approach is:

True Consilience

True Consilience

True Consilience among the 3 great branches of learning

Given the scientific and empirical evidence of Creativity (including the systems model of creativity) as an identical phenomenon in both Science and the Arts (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, p. passim) (Simonton 2004, p. 43), it is also germane to study Creativity in Film and Screenwriting scientifically (and empirically – using mathematics, statistics and probability), and using also the lens of the Social Sciences (e.g.: using knowledge from Psychology, and Sociology).

As creativity researcher Distinguished Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has stated:

`What makes [the] breakdown in communication among disciplines so dangerous is that… most creative achievements depend on making connections among disparate domains. The more obscure and separate knowledge becomes, the fewer the chances that creativity can reveal itself.’ (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, p. 338 – emphasis mine)

This article itself therefore itself aims to be a creative artefact, as it uses interdisciplinary connections, syntheses and overlaps between the Sciences, Social Sciences, and the Humanities/ Creative Arts.

Notably a similar pattern is obvious when we note that Csikszentmihalyi and Wolfe define Creativity as follows:

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

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

This overall approach reflects the value of the unification of knowledge via interdisciplinary (or `cross-disciplinary’) research and thought, or what evolutionary biologist, ethologist and twice Pulitzer Prize-winning EO Wilson calls `consilience’ in Consilience (Wilson 1998):

`I believe the enterprises of culture will eventually fall out into science, by which I mean the natural sciences, and the humanities, particularly the creative arts. These domains will be the two great branches of learning in the twenty-first century. The social sciences will continue to split within each of its disciplines, a process already rancorously begun, with one part folding into or becoming continuous with biology, the other fusing with the humanities. Its disciplines will continue to exist but in radically altered form.

In the process the humanities, ranging from philosophy and history to moral reasoning, comparative religion, and interpretation of the arts, will draw closer to the sciences and partly fuse with them.

(Wilson 1999, p. 12 – emphasis mine)

This statement above is a description of the exact activity this paper aims to enact.

Convergence

Consilience

One way that such interdisciplinary connections are made in this thesis, is: in viewing Creativity as functioning the same way in Biology as in Culture, with respect to genes (and viruses in biology) and memes (and `viral’ ideas in culture).

Genes and Memes

Genes and Memes work the same way: Selection, Variation, Transmission-with-heredity

Other researchers have also found analogues between memetics and genetics before (Dawkins 2006) (Blackmore 1999) (Dennett 1993), but this theory looks more closely than previous research at creativity, and ideas, and how (as memes) they `behave’. A greater understanding of this process enables creatives – such as novelists, filmmakers and songwriters to use memes (ideas) in creating (constructing) their own memes in culture.

This line of consilient enquiry[1] namely – memetics – can lead us to answers on: How memes such as stories (narratives) work in the culture, and also goes toward explaining why some films have a wider audience reach than others – which can be of practical help to screenwriters and filmmakers.

One result of my ongoing doctoral study is a theory, StoryAlity Theory – which makes predictions about the probability of film virality based on specific story, screenplay, film and filmmaking elements (memes). For these reasons, this research and study can be viewed as an interdisciplinary approach:

Science meets The Arts in Film Screenwriting

Science meets The Arts in Film Screenwriting

StoryAlity Theory – interdisciplinary research

In his 1956 essay The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, C P Snow noted the separation between the Sciences and the Humanities (Snow 1959).[2] The visionary book Consilience (Wilson 1998) outlines and predicts how this process will work, and that this unification of knowledge can be seen to be inevitable – if knowledge in all three major branches of learning: the Sciences, the Social Sciences and the Humanities/Arts continues to grow (Wilson 1998, p. passim).

Consilience (Wilson 1998)

And if it perhaps isn’t clear, How to do a scientific and empirical study of memes (whether they be: films, novels, songs, TV, etc) then – perhaps read the StoryAlity weblog in full. I did a study of the top 20 RoI (most viral) films and compared them to the bottom 20 RoI films.
Consilience

Consilience

PS – If the concept of a meme still isn’t clear, maybe read this post.

And – for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see, this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

And for a great consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

Comments, always welcome.

——————————————–

JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also 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 for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/

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NOTES


[1] `Consilient enquiry’ simply meaning consistent enquiry – with: current knowledge in the Sciences and Social Sciences.

[2] The text of Snow’s influential 1956 essay is reprinted online here: http://www.newstatesman.com/cultural-capital/2013/01/c-p-snow-two-cultures

[i] This excellent chapter by Gottschall is an adaptation of a section from Gottschall, J. (2008). Literature, Science, and a New Humanities (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

[ii] (or at least, my own current understanding of it)

[iii] In case it ever needs clarifying, I am not in favour of social Darwinism, or eugenics. Nor do I know of any biocultural scholars (nor literary Darwinists) who are.

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Velikovsky, J 2013, STORYALITY™ – or – PLOTTING PROFITABLE PICTURES. A Feature Film Screenwriting Manual using the Patterns and Practices in The Top 20 Return-On-Investment Films of the Past 70 Years., Amazon Digital Services, Inc., Sydney.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

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Suggested citation:

Velikovsky, JT (2013) `A Science of Memetic Culturology’, StoryAlity #101, StoryAlity weblog, Wordpess. https://storyality.wordpress.com/

17 thoughts on “StoryAlity #101 – A Science of Memetic Culturology

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