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The Origin of Memes

The Origin of Memes

The word meme was coined by the British ethologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene,” as a way to conceptualize the transmission of culture in biological terms. For Dawkins, a meme, shortened from the Greek mimeme — “an imitated thing” — was a unit of culture, a building block of our mental architecture. “Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs,” Dawkins wrote, “memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain.” They could be as small and short-lived as a tune or catchphrase, he explained, or as large and consequential as “God” and “eternal damnation.”

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Avante Guard Photographer Anne Brigman

Avante Guard Photographer Anne Brigman