Fireball

Meme: a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

Memetics: the study of the replication, spread, and evolution of memes.

There was a time where spreading a meme wasn't easy. A few guys with a message would have started a band or self-published a zine. They might start a local BBS so they can post their radical ideas hoping that it'll infect the next wandering mind who happens across their small island in cyberpsace.

Because there was once a distinct lack of connectivity with others, people would need to distribute their message themselves. Maybe if they're lucky someone found their message attractive and decided to replicate it or add to it. Hell, maybe they'd start their own band or write their own zine. If the message was good, it would spread like this among the population looking for a message differing than that with which they're used to.

So it was with the punk scene. It developed its own culture, fashion, self-published media. Evolving and spreading with every band formed and every zine published. Eventually, like all good subcultures, its popularity was its downfall. New people began coming in, as they always do, that didn't really care about the message. They liked the look, the "fuck you" aesthetic. But with this new crowd that is as deep as it gets. Posers, as the punks would have called them. When people start looking for a certain fashion, those who sell fashion see a market open and do what's in their nature. They start selling to it. Eventually every subculture succumbs to this. It gets too big to sustain itself, marketers turn the message into a commodity and with that the whole thing loses its meaning. Through that it then loses its relevance.

This process today has been accelerated at an exponential rate. Now you don’t need to photocopy the zine you copy and pasted together from old magazines in your dimly lit basement at your local library's public use copier. Now getting your message out is simple as making a website; easier than that even with social networking. These days I can input anything into a search engine and instantly get relevant results no matter how niche. This is great in many ways. This new technology is great for amateur, non corporate-sponsered journalists. Great for people wanting to connect with friends or family. Great for getting ideas out there. But horrible for subcultures.

Subcultures require an amount of seclusion. They require you to want to be part of them, to be willing to put effort in the search for them. Subcultures used to be something you had to look for, or something you stumbled upon and just clicked in your head, making you seek it out more. If punk was able to reach every living room in an instant like today, would it have had the same bite? No, subcultures were once something you discovered at a dingy night club in the trashy part of town the maps wouldn't bother to label. The kind you got dragged to by your weird friend with a no-name band playing some musical genre you had never listened to before. Subcultures used to be something printed earlier that day, rolled up and shoved into your hand as you leave a concert for you to read later. It was hard to find, hard to get to, in part by necessity and in part by choice. Now you can go online and search any existing subculture and find half a million websites and blog entries dedicated to it.

Ideas go memetic too easily now. They can spread, evolve, splinter apart, and spawn ten new memes all within the span of a day. They skip directly from the "pieced together in a dimly lit basement" phase straight to the "hijacked for a quick buck" phase in a week. After that the only place left for them to go is into obscurity; to lose relevance and be forgotten, and everyone moves on to the next trendy thing. This is the memetic culture ; in our culture ideas don't merely spread anymore, they explode. They go from being a tiny idea from their source to being everywhere in the blink of an eye, and disappear the next second. In this environment, how can anything of substance form? How can there be cohesive counterculture in the wake of such technological change? It was once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Those who recognize this may wish to reach a state of ensorcel; none that which they've experienced before. The sincere who look at today’s narratives and care about their context. People who don't don't want their ideas to explode and disappear like a firecracker, but would rather it spread gradually and deliberately to those who mistake noise for signal.

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