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The swarming of the memes

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Abstract:

Traditional art history equates the production of the memes of visual art exclusively with individual consciousness. An evolutionary art history looks also at the patterns into which art-memes flow patterns that display striking synchronicities of cultural motivation, both within the arts themselves and between the arts and sciences parallel patterns of collective memetic behaviour. We are all familiar with short-wave collective behaviour: football fans, evangelist meetings, political demonstrations, rioting crowds and panicking troops all display it. This paper is concerned with long-wave collective behaviour, as evidenced in the migration of Western elite culture from the open to the closed meme in the arts and sciences of the Renaissance period, or again in the reciprocal cultural migration from closed to open memes going on in the arts and sciences at the present time. How do we explain this swarming of the memes, such that artistic and scientific communication, despite their explicitly different forms, seem invisibly joined at the hip? Why do our memes rock'n'roll topologically between open and closed states? The paper suggests that memetic swarming the synchronization of our memes in alternating open and closed states may be an expression of the sensitivity of our consciousness to the changing dynamics of our own relationship with the planetary biosphere through ecological evolution. If so, the ultimate driver of memetic swarming may be an algorithm as commonplace and as universal as the figureground opposition: linking our evolution with our memes by way of a simple principle of reciprocity, such that consciousness will tend to output closed memes in periods of open evolution, and, reciprocally, closed memes in periods of open evolution.

Keywords: consciousness; ecology; evolution; meme/memetic; reciprocity

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/tear.6.2.115_1

Affiliations: Independent art historian.

Publication date: August 21, 2008

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  • Technoetic Arts focuses upon the juncture between art, technology and the mind. Divisions between academic areas of study, once rigidly fixed, are gradually dissolving due to developments in science and cultural practice. This fusion has had a dramatic effect upon the scope of various disciplines. In particular, the profile of art has radically evolved in our present technological culture
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