UMBC ebiquity
A beme is a meme spread by blogs

A beme is a meme spread by blogs

Tim Finin, 1:00pm 18 February 2007

memes are like genesTom Hayes coins beme as a new word for a meme “propagated by blogs and bloggers”.

“A beme is a turbo-charged meme made possible entirely by the existence of the network affect. A beme can be impactful because it is lurid–a photo of a panty-less Britney Spears, or humorous–a whimisical video of the band OKGO on treadmills, or gut-wrenching–the sad tirade by comedian Michael Richards. A beme can cement an idea with the public in a way that cannot be legislated or regulated. No legal effort by Cisco to enforce a trademark, for example, will make the public unlearn that Apple produces the iPhone.”

He says that bemerz, the people who do the propagation, can spread ideas “faster than any people in history”.

“That’s because a beme moves a billion times faster than a meme ever could. That’s the power of citizen-driven media networks. Do the math. There are nearly 60 million blogs, 600 million email users and many millions of social media citizens. Because we all can be bemerz, powerful enough to spread any idea to anyone, a beme today can be created, promulgated and soldered into social consciousness in a fraction of the time it took memes to spread 30 years ago when Professor Dawkins first made the observation.”

The essential characteristic of both genes and memes is that they spread from host to host because their nature encourages replication. Often, but not always, this is because they are beneficial to the host. Do bemes have this characteristic? Probably. An early Web 2.0 bemerz (i.e., beme host) might start to spread it and become a Web 2.0 consultant. What’s good for the beme is good for the bemerz. Can we differentiate bemes that are truly beneficial to their hosts (e.g., object-oriented programming) from those that are not (insert your favorite example here).

Of course, along with rapid diffusion may come a short life. Genes can last for eons. Memes are probably shorter lived — maybe lasting for millennia or at least centuries. What’s the half-life of a beme? It’s probably on the order of a month.

Lots of people, including our ebiquity research group, are studying how ideas and opinions spread through social media. it’s an interesting problem with many practical applications. I think that this way to frame the problem is broader than the beme idea. Yet it’s useful to have a short term that doesn’t already have meanings to refer to the spread of mental objects via the Internet. There are several basic problems to attack: how can we recognize new bemes, can we track them back to their source or sources, who are influential in their spread, can the spread be controlled, can we find relations between bemes, what happens when bemes compete or cooperate, how can we track their mutation and evolution, can they reproduce sexually, is their a ‘natural selection’ at work for bemes, are they like selfish genes, what are good metrics to measure their strength, how do bemes expire.


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