Product & Startup Builder

Merry Christmas - The power of memes

Added on by Chris Saad.

Many, many of the things in our lives could be called 'Memes'.  Here's what happens when you type 'Define:meme' into Google.

Memes are everywhere. We just experienced a country wide meme here in the US called 'Thanksgiving'. We are about to hit a similar meme (except this one is global) called 'Christmas'.

Memes are fascinating things. They are almost as important as Context, Perspective and Metaphors. Together these three things compose the great majority of our thought processes.

What is this like (metaphor), What else is going on (context), What does everyone else think (meme), What does my experience and current state of mind tell me (Perspective).

Some memes emerge organically over time - like folding the end of hotel toilet paper into a little triangle. Others are created through brute force by strategic construction and repetition. No one has mastered this better than the extreme right wing of the US political system. Fox news is a bright shining example of how to craft, seed, propagate and manipulate a meme.

Silicon Valley loves a meme. We live on them. In fact one could argue that the whole ecosystem would shut down without the meme of the day, week and bubble.

.Com, Web 2.0, Data Portability, Real-time web, RSS is dead, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Cloud, Semantic Web, Synaptic Web and so on and so forth.

Like in real life, some of these memes emerge organically, some through brute force. Some make more sense than others. Some of these memes get undue attention. Some are created to stir controversy. Others form organically to create a shorthand. Some are genuine cultural shifts that have been observed and documented.

These memes matter. They matter a lot. They dictate a large part of how people act, what they pay attention to and their assumptions about the world in which they live, and the people they encounter. In Silicon Valley they dictate who gets heard and which projects get funded. They form the basis of many of our decisions.

Some services like Techmeme do a very good job at capturing daily memes. I've yet to see a service that captures memes that span weeks, months, years or even decades though. I dream of such a service. Particularly one focused on news memes.

Imagine being able to zoom in and out of the news, and drag the timeline back and forth like some kind of Google maps for headlines. Imagine being able to read about an IED explosion in Bagdad and quickly understand its context in the decade long struggle for the entire region through some kind of clustered headline/topic view.

Consider the context, perspective and metaphoric power such a tool would give us. How could it change our world view and help turn the temporary, vacuous nature of a microblog update into something far more substantial and impactful with an in line summary of the rich historic narrative inside which it belongs.

The algorithm to create such correlations and the user interface to present it would challenge even the smartest mathematicians and user interaction designers I imagine. It's commercial value is vague at best. It probably shouldn't be attached to a business at all - maybe it should be some kind of wikipedia style gift to the world.

Maybe the news media, Reuters, CNN and Washington Post might take it upon themselves to sponsor such a project in an effort to re-contextualize their news archives in the new AAADD, real-time, now, now now, every one is a journalist media world.

I've bought some domains and done some mockups of such a service, but I probably would never have the time or the patience to build it - at least not in the foreseeable future.

Maybe I'm just dreaming. But I think it's a good dream!