Memes: Broadcast Model

April 3, 2011 |  by

In a way, memes are like radio (or Wifi).

Memes “broadcast” a specific signal – call it a frequency, wavelength or vibe – that patterns core qualities of the meme. People “receive” the signal according to which memes they’re tuned-in to.

Take a shopping plaza with a chocolatier, sushi bars, a martial arts dojo, bookstores, and a Chinese restaurant. They’re all broadcasting signals. Sushi lovers are drawn to the sushi shop – they don’t even notice the Chinese restaurant. Karate kids pass up the chocolate – they’re tuned in to the dojo. Bookworms head for you know where.

What’s happening in the brain?

Repeated thoughts, actions or pleasures make imprints on our neural networks. These networks are activated by similar signals coming from the meme.

Everywhere we go, we’re awash in signals from memes. Some resonate with us, others don’t. Here’s my early-stage hypothesis: the degree to which a meme triggers our networks is a function of our degree of imprinting and the loudness (intensity) of the meme.

Mathematically, you could say:

a = I(L)

where a = degree of activation/triggering

I = our degree of imprinting

L = meme loudness


Below are some visual representations:


this one shows variations in meme loudness

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“green” people are tuned-in to the signal, “purple” people aren’t; memes themselves may resonate with certain memes (lines connecting black boxes) and not with others

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loudness and time (foreground is NOW)

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An important note: meme signals don’t need to originate locally – or have a center. Ideological memes like Marxism or capitalism operate on a global scale (though they may have local “hot-spots” such as organizations or books that promote their goals). Non-local memes are still broadcasting, but they aren’t following the traditional spatial rules.


non-spatial nature of meme signals

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