What Are Gateways (Portals)?

January 26, 2011 |  by


Ciel is driving us up 101 from Santa Barbara. We’re listening to an old Dave Matthews song when suddenly I’m covered in U.Va meme dust (U.Va – where I went to school and where Dave got started). I’m totally zombied. My whole identity becomes bound up with U.Va, a strong sense of belonging to the group and a certain snobbish pride cultivated by the U.Va meme. In an instant, my state of mind had changed completely.

What just happened?

I’d just crossed a gateway.

Gateways are access points to a meme. A gateway can be a logo, a song, a website, a mobile app – virtually any place or object that was created by (or used by) a group. When you tune in to a gateway, you pick up flavors of the meme behind it.

Many people mistake gateways for memes themselves. Memes are pure consciousness – you can’t see them physically. But you can see the gateways that lead to them.

In this case, the Dave Matthews song was a gateway to the U.Va meme.

How? Brain scientists might explain it this way. Neural networks in my brain were imprinted with an association between Dave Matthews and the U.Va meme when I went to school. When I hear his music now, those same networks are triggered again.

Gateways are portals to states of mind. They take you from here to there. Here is wherever you are. There is the meme, the network. Call it what you want: a culture, a consciousness, a way of thinking. What matters is that here is completely different from there.

It’s a two-way street. Memes influence us through gateways and make themselves felt. But we can go the other direction. We can enter the meme – engaging the network – through a gateway. I can access the U.Va meme at will (if, say, I’m attending a reunion). Engaging gateways by choice is completely different from being hooked by them.

Seeing your surroundings as filled with gateways radically changes your perception – you see the presence of memes everywhere. Then it’s just a matter of choice. In the network, we’re either users or programs.

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