Sunday, October 10, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
I am on sabbatical right now to write my portion (1/3) of a book on Global Popular Culture. I'm doing the theory section right now. I'm also writing a paper on memetics applied to the ancient Silk Road in comparison with memetics in today's mass society. The upshot is that when memetic quantity and speed reach a certain threshold there is a qualitative change in the nature of human communication. The characteristics of memetic replication take on greater importance at higher speeds and increased quantity. Human reason is likely to play a lesser role in guiding decision making as popular culture increases its dominance of rationality. Mass society in the age of the internet becomes the domain of the more rapidly replicating ideas rather than the ones most compelling from a rational point of view. This is not to say that there wasn't always some memetic role in intellectual history; my discussion of Silk Road dynamics establishes that. The narrative and visual elements of Buddhism, Hinduism and other thought complexes are spread to some extent as much because they are prone to replication as they are because they are rational or meet the needs of people. The thing about the history of memetic reality before mass society is that it is tightly linked to the history of trade. Ideas aren't strong enough to move by themselves, they required that trade routes along the Silk Road be established first. That is why the Hindu elements of Cambodian art have to be understood in terms of Indonesian influence. The Hindu aesthetic traveled through Indonesia on its way to Cambodia because trade went that direction, first to the more distant Indonesia (by sea), then back to Cambodia.