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On Modelling in Memetics - Bruce Edmonds

1 Introduction

Memetics is, at the moment, a gloriously diverse field - it ranges all the way from a narrative framework in fields such as history and anthropology to formal predictive theories in biology and computer science. It is, by and large, open to ideas and influences from outside of itself which is a trait to be appreciated and preserved. If this were not so, this would be a very different paper - I might be arguing for more variation and less selection.

In this paper I consider that part of memetics which aims to be a formal science. At this time its development in this direction has just begun. As in similarly young fields there is an initial proliferation of possible models and lots of informal `chat' about the proper designation of its subject matter. In this article I take a step back and apply the evolutionary metaphor to the field of memetics itself. I conclude that in order for the field to evolve as a science, better and more stringent selection criteria need to be applied. In particular I advocate the validation and verification of models with respect to other models, so that they form a complete explanatory chain from an abstraction of evolutionary and genetic processes to data from the domains of actual cultural communication.

After briefly discussing the content of the field of memetics and its development in section 2, I consider two types of memetic models that have arisen: the `a priori' (section 3) and the `black-box' model (section 4), with examples examined in each. Then in section 5, I argue that the most basic selection criteria should include verification and validation, as a move towards a minimum standard for explanatory models. In section 6, I consider further selection criteria that might aid the judgement of models in complex situations, using a hard-nosed constructivist stance.

On Modelling in Memetics - Bruce Edmonds - 18 AUG 98
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