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December 19, 2011 / glencoyote

The Learning Meme

“We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information.” – James Gleick, The Information, shared by Brain Pickings

Gleick’s”creatures of the information,” or as James Bridle puts it, “render ghosts,”  those incipient beings that look back at us from digital space, want to dance. And as we mold our bodies to their’s, the geometry of the space we define is knowledge.

A recent example is the meme that emerged out of the UC Davis pepper spraying incident. What is happening when a real person, John Pike, first loses his name – in a way that reflects his transformation into something anonymous and symbolic – becoming “casual pepper spraying cop” – and then completes his memetic arc as a digital artifact to be photoshopped endlessly as an element in new compositions?

meme  n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice of idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. An image, video, phrase, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

When the casual pepper spraying cop was juxtaposed with historical figures such as Rosa Parks or a victim of the Kent State shootings the effect was a sort of digital time travel that both connects events and encourages creative thinking about the events and the continuum.

As Bridle suggests, we are interacting with machines that have their own way of seeing. As we transform John Pike into a “creature of the information” he looks back at us from the virtual space, and he too wants to dance.

Mark Rolston talks about this process from a product development perspective.


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