How to Study Memes
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In this course we’ll study the concept of the meme. First proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene(1976), this idea of a unit for carrying cultural content has taken on new and varied life as a result of massive changes in communication technologies. In addition to Dawkins, we’ll read Susan Blackmore, Robert Aunger, and Kate Distin, as well as more recent elaborations by Daniel Dennett; we’ll also examine criticisms of the meme concept from philosophers and semioticians. Beyond these classic approaches to memes, we’ll also explore ideas of memetic engineering and meme warfare. We’ll investigate philosopher René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire and its influence on entrepeneur Peter Thiel and the origins of Facebook. We’ll think through the question of whether it is possible to “meme something into existence” and whether a meme can properly be said to belong to a given political position or cultural perspective. And of course we’ll discuss—but never limit ourselves to—popular internet memes.
Classroom time will be divided between succinct lectures and seminar discussions. Students can expect to write regular reading responses and a critical essay. The program is suitable for all levels; it can work as an introduction to philosophy, as well as for more advanced students wishing to deepen their knowledge of philosophy or media theory.
Students taking 8 credits will also participate in Mon/Wed writing workshops/meme labs in addition to the Tuesday and Thursday meetings
Credits per quarter Variable Credit Options Available
4 credits: two weekly meetings
8 credits: two additional writing workshops
- No Required Online Learning - No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional.
Class Size: 25
Scheduled for: Day
Final schedule and room assignments:
First meeting:Monday, July 29, 2019 - 10:00 am
Located in: Olympia