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The article analyses the term “meme”, its history, ideological and theoretical background. The article aims at revealing the meaning of the term in different scientific and philosophical interpretations.
Meme was introduced by Richard Dawkins who tried to embed culture into his theory of gene evolution. Hence its meaning was similar to “gene” in Dawkins interpretation. The term became popular in research culture, popular science, and common sense. It is often used to describe the online phenomena of quickly spread funny pictures and phrases.
The scientific use of the term supposes a specific ideological background. It is atheistic, technocratic, media-oriented and sets human being as a prosumer. This approach did not develop richly in scientific fields of anthropology or sociology. However it became widely used in research related to contagious news or messages diffusion.
The article claims that meme popularity is an attempt to conceptualize text and context in a new way stressing pragmatic aspects of messages exchange. The process inherits McLuhan and other media theorists idea of communication leading role. The content of memes is similar to what Claude Levi-Strauss named “bricolage” and the social situation refers to Benjamin mechanical reproduction.
Finally the meme is compared to theories of popularity and celebrity and recognized as a conceptual language to describe the practice of consumption that is close to production. The key feature of meme in this context is that it does not produce new meanings and only reproduces the old ones.