effective memes

Linguistic relativity is a vital wand for transformation

“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.” ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Change comes when people talk with people. Image above of the Community Memory team in Berkeley 1973. Photo: Photo taken by and for the Community Memory Project, first published in the Resource One Newsletter, April 1974.

LANGUAGE CHANGES INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT AND COMMUNITY TAKES ACTION: I recently watched a video posted by a Greek economist that identified magic as the only method for solving the Greek economic crisis. My thoughts after watching the video went to creativity and the power of language to create one’s experience of reality. It is my firm belief that through language we can first change our own thoughts and experience and then the thoughts and reality of others. In terms of changing collective reality, we now live in a time when this has become even more possible via massively connected social networks in the digital realm. At no time in history has it been so easy to inject an idea (a meme) into the fabric of humanity and effect change.

In order to fully master this power, one must accept the principle of linguistic relativity. What is linguistic relativity?

LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY (http://bit.ly/linguistic_relativity1 + http://bit.ly/linguistic_relativity2) is a vital principle and potentially one of the most important revolutions of our time. The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects the ways in which its speakers are able to conceptualize their world. Learning how language shapes thought is a HUGE step to transforming one’s life and the life of the community.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: One of the chief challenges to anyone wishing to create change is cultural difference. The principle of linguistic relativity IS BOTH vital INSIGHT and ACTION when one looks at the difference between how cultures thrive and how they fall apart. Some cultures orient entirely towards soma, or body, consciousness and find tremendous fulfillment through emotional connection – the artists, for instance. Others orient towards intellectual pursuit and find pleasure through mathematics and rational mapping of experience. One culture is subjective and focused on what is felt within the heart. Another triumphs objectivity and orients only towards what the five senses can know. One culture “holds it together” on the outside and has a chaotic interior life; another seems to be in chaos from the outside and has a rich emotional and spiritual heritage and experience collectively.

There are many roads to grasping the nature of cultural difference and working those differences (like a potter working clay). Getting educated in how to lead within the context of different cultures is important. Experience is the greatest teacher in this respect. What one discovers is that cultures are different AND similar.

MIND-CHANGE = LIFE-CHANGE: How does one work with a culture caught in an external and internl “downward spiral”? How does one transform that culture’s mind, its perspective. This is the important first step. As Peter Economides, a world-class branding expert and culture-changer par excellence, has said recently about the country of Greece, “Social psychology is far more important than economics. If people feel great about themselves, then they will do great things. And, if a nation feels great about itself, it will do great things. Screw economics!” The great mythologist Joseph Campbell writes, “All cultures … have grown out of myths. They are founded on myths. What these myths have given has been inspiration for aspiration. The economic interpretation of history is for the birds. Economics is itself a function of aspiration. It’s what people aspire to that creates the field in which economics works.”

Managing a fall and turning it into a victory is the action that nations like Greece are involved right now. One of the MOST inspirational clips I’ve ever seen in a film is when Eric Lidel in Chariots of Fire falls and then gets back up and wins the race. That’s what nations like Greece and the world MUST do now.

Look at this great quote by Joseph Campbell:
“We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.”

The quote by Campbell matches this quote from the movie Jacob’s Ladder, where Louis, Jacob Singer’s friend, quotes Eckhart: “The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn ’em all away. But they’re not punishing you, he said. They’re freeing your soul. … If you’re frightened of dying and holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the Earth”.

A MAGIC WAND IS WOVEN OF DIFFERENT ELEMENTS: In Harry Potter, the wands are woven from different elements that match or compliment the personality and essence of the person using the wand. It’s a personalized tool for effecting change. Within Greece, there are some very powerful elements that could be woven together to effect real thought change and culture change…the basis of social psychology. Imagine combining The Atenistas (a grass-roots social change and action group) with the power of a financial institution focused on green business with a tourism that involves the visitor in the process (this last is what needs REAL creativity and NOW!) The transcendence one experiences in escaping Athens to the Greek islands IS felt BECAUSE of how hard one has worked in the city…to get in one’s car to the end of the block or wade through the red-tape of politics and business. And that motion, from city to island, is in the genes of the Greek. Capturing THAT MOTION is the key and answers lie within the very literature that gave birth to this nation chock-full of potent personalities.

TRANSFORMATION: The world needs transcendence (relief) now but this must come from having engaged at a deep level in working with the root issues and clearing out the muck. Fortunately, the world has very powerful tools like Quora and Wikileaks that combine to provide community and expert graded questions and answers to mysteries. Now that transparency is the new eco-system we inhabit, ethics has started to consume power and transform the fallout from catastrophe into fertilizer for tomorrow’s rich garden of abundance. And it is this transformative act that all of humanity IS, or ought to be, involved in presently.

One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light. ~Joseph Campbell

Birthing potent thought-animals: The importance of memetics in internet marketing

A few days ago,  a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video of teenage boys freaking out on Chatroulette. The video shows various teen boys watching a teen girl tease them. Suddenly she turns into a demon-possessed being. The resulting looks on these boys’ faces is truly priceless.


What is interesting from a marketing standpoint is that just a few days ago on YouTube, this video had 1100 videos. Now it has over 1 million views. For internet marketers, I suggest that the study of internet memes is crucial. To quote Lorrie Thomas, M.A., “It is an art AND a science.” One must have a creative AND an analytical mind, OR at least a team with both/and present.

A meme is a unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. (The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word μιμητισμός (/mɪmetɪsmos/) for “something imitated”.) Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures.

Francis Heylighen, of Free University of Brussels, writes that successful memes follow three characterstics, which include:

1) copying-fidelity: the more faithful the copy, the more will remain of the initial pattern after several rounds of copying. If a painting is reproduced by making photocopies from photocopies, the underlying pattern will quickly become unrecognizable. 2) fecundity: the faster the rate of copying, the more the replicator will spread. An industrial printing press can churn out many more copies of a text than an office copying machine. 3) longevity: the longer any instance of the replicating pattern survives, the more copies can be made of it. A drawing made by etching lines in the sand is likely to be erased before anybody could have photographed or otherwise reproduced it.

Successful internet memes have been seen by anyone who has email or spends even a little time on the internet. Some of the most famous include: (1) Double Rainbow (2) Nigahiga’s YouTube channel (3) David After Dentist (4) Diet Coke and Mentos (5) the phenomenon of Rickrolling (where user is tricked into clicking a link to a music video for the 1987 Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. (6) Lady GaGa’s Bad Romance (7) Justin Bieber’s Baby.

A Comprehensive List of Internet Phenomena may be found here.


1. GEEKY RESEARCH: Read about Cluster Analysis (just to see how deep and complicated the science really gets). Study Meme-Tracking. Check out Group Formation in Large Social Networks.

2. KNOW YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC: Pay attention to the MAJOR archetypes within your chosen demographic AND their needs. Lots of market research has been done already by major research groups like Forrester, Nielsen, JD Power, and MRI into the buying habits, content preferences and behaviors of your audience.

3. USE LISTENING TOOLS TO SPOT SENTIMENT TRENDS: Listen to trends in the social fabric of the internet AND press-releases using Recorded Future, Radian6, Monitter and some of the new Facebook listening tools like Booshaka, Facepinch, OpenBook, It’s Trending and Kurrently. These tools could jumpstart your creative process. Any social campaign worth its salt has included some degree of listening to the customer PRIOR to launch.

4. BRAINSTORM using BIG pieces of paper and LOTS of flexibility WITH ALL IDEAS that emerge. Get INSPIRED in the Behance community, a fabulous place for meeting peers in the creative space AND to learn fabulous CREATIVE PROCESS TECHNIQUES.

5. A, B, C test your top ideas using landing pages, images, tweets, FB status updates, and blogposts. Notice AND measure response to these communications using Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and Alexa.

Great content contains effective memes, or word-creatures, the weavers of this living tissue that we call the social fabric of the internet. Viral videos like the one above, inspirational quotes, one-liners and personal news in the form of tweets and status updates are examples of word-creatures that move through individual and communal minds/hearts to what end none of us may ever know. These thought-animals consume the attention of a community, grow larger, and move deeper into the texture of the community.