Before I get into a this post I just wanted to share what a nice old eastern european lady said to me after seeing the video at the OCAD open house on Saturday. As she was leaving the room she thanked me, I asked her what for. She replied, “For exercising my mind.” To which I said, “Oh, did you like it?” Her response to this is probably one of the nicest things someone has said about any project I’ve worked on, “It is not a matter of liking, it was intellectually stimulating, it made me look at something in a new way, and that is what I desire from artist and students.” So good work everyone, let’s keep the intellectual stimulation going…
I’ve done a little more reading about the concept of memes, very interesting theory. I like that it relates the structure of biology to the structure of culture. I’m going to attempt to break this project down and explain it in terms of biology. Maybe looking at this from a different vantage point will shed a new light on what we are up to.
To start I’ll explain the analogies I’m basing this on.
Given that, here is my attempt. If you have a biology background, I would first of like to apologize for what I’m sure is an over simplification (and possibly out right wrong), also if you could help me tighten this up I would really appreciate it.
What we have created with our project is a gene. The only way we can have any influence over the organism is by introducing genes. The gene we have introduced will become part of a cells DNA. The gene will be one piece of the instructions that tell the cell what to do. We have the power to introduce the gene to any cell’s DNA we come in contact with (although in this case contact is not limited to the physical realm). Those cells are now capable of passing the gene on to any other cell’s DNA they come in contact with, and so on.
What we do not have any control over is whether the gene we introduce will in fact become a part of the cell’s DNA. The DNA must have a favorable combination of genes to allow this new one to join them in dictating the cells behaviour. We can control how many cells we try to pass this gene on to, but we can’t control whether (even if they have accepted the gene into their DNA) they will try to pass the gene on to other cell’s DNA. We also have no power over whether the gene will have a strong enough effect on the cell’s DNA to be able to perceive any noticeable change in the cell’s behaviour.
We are left hoping that the gene finds a favourable combination of genes in the DNA to have the desired effect on the cell’s behaviour. Once one cell’s behaviour changes, it will begin to have an influence in creating a more hospitable organism for our gene, making both other cells and the entire organism more likely to accept the gene into it’s DNA. Once enough cells’ DNA have been altered then we will begin to perceive change in the organism as a whole.
The gene will likely evolve along the way, trying to find the optimal niche in the DNA for it to affect the cell. We, as introducers of this gene have no control over it’s mutations and combinations, but we know that evolution will result in the fittest gene. Now we just have to hope that the organisms altered DNA is in line with our original intentions.
Well I hope I haven’t over complicated this, or made it more confusing.
So this meme we’ve created with the concept / word depletist will hopefully affect peoples behaviours, and once those behaviours start to change we will see a change in culture. In theory this all works. I’m really excited to see what happens in the much more complex environment of society. What mutations will this project take along it’s way to influencing culture, assuming of course society deems this idea fit enough.
I guess there are a lot of examples of scientist tampering with evolution, with mixed results. I personally think we should let evolution take this idea for a ride. What mutations will be necessary for it to become a part of our culture? What criteria does culture use to evaluate the ‘fitness’ of an idea? If you tamper with evolution will you create something that requires constant maintenance and supervision (I hear corn can’t even grow in the wild any more…).
Let me know what you think. Did looking at this from a different angle bring any new thoughts about what we are doing?