By Deane Barker

This is the study of how information, culture, and ideas propagate through a population through a perspective of evolution, comparing information to gene mutations.

Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene to describe a unit of information that propagates from mind to mind. The study of this became known as memetics.

Why I Looked It Up

I saw a book in a store called Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life. I have not read the book, but it’s apparently about how the desire for something is memetically transferred from person to person.

From the back cover:

When Regina George wears a new outfit in Mean Girls, why does the rest of the school try to match her? When Elon Musk tweets about Clubhouse, why does everyone want to join? From trends and ideas in fashion to bubbles in financial markets, Wanting explores the hidden social process that plays out.

And I’m reminded of this scene from The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda explains to Andy how the desire for a certain shade of blue was transferred from the fashionable elite down to the masses.

(Note the spelling of “mimetic” in the book title (the “i” instead of the “e”). I don’t know what to make of this. That spelling is valid, as it the spelling with the “e” – they both have lots of references. I’m pretty sure they’re referring to the same thing.)


Added on April 21, 2023

I have since read (and reviewed) Wanting. Also, I gave the message at church youth group once in April 2023, and I spent some time talking about memetic desire. I even played the above clip from The Devil Wears Prada.


Added on April 29, 2023

A YouTube video described memetic desire like this:

Mimetic desire means that a person’s choice of an object is not determined by the object itself, but by a third person or third party which is a mediator or model of desire.

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