NEWS: June 2017 – published a chapter: The structure of the meme, the unit of culture in The Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, 4th Edition (Velikovsky 2017).

Click the links above – or the image below – to go to the chapter…

The full chapter citation is:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2017). `Chapter 405: The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or, The Unit Of Culture’, in: The Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition, M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.) (pp. 4666-4678). New York: IGI Global.

But – So what…?

The best analogy is: This chapter (above) in 2017, does for culture, what that paper (below) did for biology, in 1953.

A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, Watson J.D. and Crick F.H.C., Nature 171, 737-738 (1953)

This discovery, of the structure of the meme (the unit of culture) in that Encyclopedia chapter emerged from my (2016) PhD thesis.

Here’s a diagram from the (2017) encyclopedia chapter:

The Evolutionary Systems View, from the multiverse through to subatomic particles (derived from Laszlo 1972); image copyright IGI Global (Velikovsky 2016, p. 211; 2017, p. 4667) – the 3 Laws of holon/partons apply at each of these levels, above

And here are some Definitions, from the online (2017) chapter preview:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Parton: (sensu Feynman 1975, 2005) The term in subatomic physics that Richard P. Feynman (Feynman, 2005 , p. 278) created for the equivalent structure of: the holon.

Holon: (sensu Koestler 1967) ‘A holon … is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part.’ (Koestler 1967, p. 48).

Systems Theory: The study of systems and their environments – including system inputs, outputs, relations and interactions including the concept of emergence, where the whole system (its structure, function and behavior) is more than the sum of its parts.

For reviews of Systems Theory, Complexity and Emergence in biology and culture see (Sepännen in Altmann & Koch, 1998 , pp. 180-302), (Sadowski, 1999 , pp. 7-10), (Gershenson & Heylighen. (2005), (Warfield, 2006 , pp. 38-46), ( Lin, Duan, Zhao, & Xu, 2013 , pp. 1-22), (Mobus & Kalton, 2014, 32–40).

Holon/Parton: A portmanteau synthesis of the terms holon and parton. A consilient (science and the arts) synthesis of these two terms used herein is ‘holon/parton’ as this term emphasizes the dual or ‘Janus-faced’ (Koestler, 1979, p. 27) nature of these whole/part entities; they are a whole and also a part at the same time, in both biological and in socio-cultural systems, and also in biological and biocultural units.

Culture: ‘Culture’ is knowledge encoded in symbol systems in the form of ideas, processes and products (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) including in science, the arts, media, religion, and languages.

Examples of ideas include scientific theories (e.g., gravity, general and special relativity, evolution) and also literary and media characters and narratives (Sherlock Holmes, Anna Karenina, Harry Potter); examples of processes include cognitive processes: writing an email, having a conversation, reading a book and in science, pasteurization; examples of cultural products include the hand-axe, the spear, the wheel, words, books, movies, songs, the printing press, the telescope, the microscope, the car, the computer and iPod. As there is no culture without biology, a synonym for ‘culture’ is ‘bioculture’.

Transmedia: A narrative extended across more than one media (e.g., across a movie, novel, videogame, nonfiction documentary and so on). Adaptations of a narrative from one media to another (e.g. novel-to-film) and prequels and sequels in the same media are not transmedia (see: Dena, 2009; Jenkins, 2011; Polson, Cook, Brackin, & Velikovsky, 2014; Kerrigan & Velikovsky, 2015).

Creativity: The standard definition of creativity is ‘original and useful’ namely a biocultural artifact (i.e., idea, process, product) judged ‘original and useful’ (‘novel and appropriate’) by a consensus of the audience (i.e. the field) for a specific domain in culture (Runco & Jaeger, 2012).

Examples of domains in culture include movies, literature, popular music, videogames, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology and all their various subdomains (including genres and subgenres).

Holarchy: Koestler defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons (Koestler, 1967, p. 103). Holarchies function according to the three laws of holarchies – which are also three laws of evolution in Systems Theory (see Laszlo, 1972 , pp. 55-118, 176-180) – namely: (1) competition and/or cooperation (and/or co-opetition), ‘sideways’ with other holon/partons on the same level; (2) integration upwards, into the larger holon/parton on the level ‘above’; and (3) control and command of holon/partons on the level ‘below’ (Koestler, 1964, 1967, 1978).

Meme: The unit of culture (see: Dawkins 1976). Identified (thus defined) here as: the holon/parton (see also: Velikovsky 2016).

Evolution (Biological, Cultural, Cosmic): Evolution can most simply be defined as ‘descent with modification’ (Chaisson, 2001; Darwin, 1859). Here the concept of evolution includes the (post-1940s) Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (aka ‘Neo-Darwinism’) including Multilevel Selection Theory ( Gontier, 2012 ). ‘The evolutionary process requires variation, differential survival and reproductive success, and inheritance’ ( Capra & Luisi, 2014 , p. 200; see also Dennett, 1995 , p. 343).

Laszlo (1972) explains atoms, biology and social systems as classes of natural (and sometimes designed) systems ‘sharing invariant fundamental properties’ (Laszlo, 1972, p. 56) and demonstrates that evolution occurs across natural systems (Laszlo, 1972 , pp. 57-117). Systems and artifacts (inputs and outputs) are selected (or deselected and thus ‘falsified’) by their environment (Popper 1999). The iterative and recursive Evolutionary Algorithm (namely: variation, selection, transmission) satisfices rather than optimizes (see: Simon 1996).


Velikovsky, J. T. (2017). `Chapter 405: The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or, The Unit Of Culture’, in: The Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition, M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.) (pp. 4666-4678). New York: IGI Global.

About the Encyclopedia:

Also, a longer chapter (about the same discovery) is in the book Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications (2016), and was also an Appendix to the (2016) PhD thesis.

(You can also read that longer, 2016 chapter on memes, here.)

Random Factoid: When Watson & Crick made the equivalent discovery in biology (in 1953), they won a Nobel Prize for it; so, 40 years after The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976), it’s probably about time that we discovered the structure of the unit of culture… (and – it only took me: 20 years of work – i.e., research, professional practice, and thinking…)

The Selfish Gene (Dawkins 1976) – see Chapter 11, on memes (units of culture)

In the Foreword to The Meme Machine (Blackmore 1999)the great Richard Dawkins noted: `Memes have not yet found their Watson and Crick; they even lack their Mendel.’ (Dawkins in Blackmore 1999, p. xii).

The Meme Machine (Blackmore 1999)

Memetics – as a knowledge domain – grew, but then disbanded (e.g. Journal of Memetics, 1997-2005). Mainly it disbanded in 2005, because nobody had yet identified: the structure, and evolutionary mechanisms, and the levels of selection of: units of culture.

But – see that new chapter, in The Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology (2017).

Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme, the unit of culture

The Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme, the unit of culture (Velikovsky 2017)

The great Professor Daniel C Dennett of course has also done a lot of truly excellent work on memes: e.g.,

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (Dennett 1995)

(Dan Dennett is also my favourite philosopher, followed by Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell). And I owe a great debt of gratitude to creativity scholars, Csikszentmihalyi and Simonton, Dan Dennett, Sue Blackmore, Martin Farncombe, Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, E O Wilson, Arthur Koestler, Richard Feynman, my PhD supervisors, and many others.

And, for more on memes, see also, the brilliant book:

From Bach to Bacteria and Back: The Evolution of Minds (Dennett 2017)

So – the Encyclopedia of Information Science & Technology chapter is out now – see what you make of it…


And for more see also:

And maybe see even the whole PhD weblog. …(There are loads of posts on memes in there.)

Side Note: I’m currently writing a book on units of culture (aka `memes’), expanding on the (2017) chapter from the Encyclopedia.

– Comments, always welcome.

See the forthcoming book (November 2021) here: P3 of EC


JT Velikovsky, PhD

Evolutionary Culturologist


Information Scientist

& Evolutionary Systems Analyst

& High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie & Transmedia Researcher

& Human & Computer Creativity Researcher (& random humanimal)

The above is adapted from my 2016 doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is reproduced here for the benefit of fellow bio-cultural scholars, and screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is a million-selling Transmedia writer-director-producer. He has also been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild.

For more, see the Transmedia weblog: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/


Blackmore, S. J. (1999). The Meme Machine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dawkins, R. ([1976] 2006). The Selfish Gene (30th anniversary ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dennett, D. C. (2017). From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (First Edition. ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema: A comparative study of the top 20 Return-on-Investment (RoI) Movies and the Doxa of Screenwriting’. PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia.

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.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2017). Chapter 405: The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or, The Unit Of Culture. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Fourth Edition (pp. 4666-4678). New York: IGI Global.


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