The misunderstanding of memes: Biography of an unscientific object, 1976-1999

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When the “meme” was introduced in 1976, it was as a metaphor intended to illuminate an evolutionary argument. By the late-1980s, however, we see from its use in major US newspapers that this original meaning had become obscured. The meme became a virus of the mind. (In the UK, this occurred slightly later.) It is also now clear that this becoming involved complex sustained interactions between scholars, journalists, and the letter-writing public. We must therefore read the “meme” through lenses provided by its popularization. The results are in turn suggestive of the processes of meaning-construction in scholarly communication more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-104
JournalPerspectives on Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1-May-2012
Externally publishedYes


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