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Children Don't Do Things Half Way
A Talk With Judith Rich Harris


Doug Rushkoff on Children Don't Do Things Half Way by Judith Rich Harris


From: Doug Rushkoff
Date: 7-5-99

Terrific conversation.

What inspires me most about Harris's work is the way it blasts holes in the conservative/xtian-extremist argument for "family values" at the expense of school budgets and other civic expenditures. Her evidence and conclusions will find no friends among those who are hoping to replace genuine community interactions with a pair of Bible-thumping parents.

As for her discussion of memes, however, I wonder exactly how her notion that "BETWEEN groups there's a motivation to reject the memes of the other group and do something different" really plays itself out. If the meme is 'strong' enough, the new group adopts it. Their pride simply forces them to rename or recontextualize the meme to make it *seem* original.

The kinds of variations that Harris points out (holding a fork one way vs. another, or tomahto vs. tomato) are packaging distinctions that actually ALLOW for the adoption of a meme by a group that wants to FEEL it's still behaving in an original fashion. (Changes to the viral shell, as I'd put it, and not the memes encased within it.) The ability of the meme to appear or be pronounced differently in different contexts attests to the power of its fundamental command set.

This is why I've always felt that memes really can't be accurately tracked independently of their viral shells. (But that's probably just my way of making Dawkin's ideas feel somehow original to me!)


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