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The Complete Universe of Memes - eBook

Please try again later. Format: Paperback Verified Purchase. This is a bad book on the fascinating topic of memes. Most of the rest will not like this book, I expect. Take care with this one. See all 1 customer reviews. Write a customer review. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free delivery with Amazon Prime. Your recently viewed items and featured recommendations.

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It seems that this confusion exists in the literature on memes, which indiscriminately lumps together all mental entities as "memes". In the same way, all biological organisms are not viruses, and all organized informational entities are not memes. Even though this article is primarily devoted to memes, one of its goals is to point out that today, memes have proliferated to the detriment of other informational entities.

Architectural memes depend on people and human society for their existence. An informational virus is merely a handy description of actions that persons willingly take to reduce organized complexity in different media. Some individuals strongly believe in the propagation of a particular type of structure over the earth, and they devote their energies to this task. Alternatively, as in a political movement, persons who do not believe in the ideology might support it nevertheless, because it provides a means of livelihood, income, or career advancement.

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Some memes propagate because it serves the interest of a group of persons to propagate them. Even if the long-term effects on society are clearly negative, some individuals profit in the short term. Although we should be careful not to overextend the viral analogy, there is one further insight to be gained from it. Biological viruses have an inert, crystalline form in which they can survive in a hostile environment for a long time.

The biological virus becomes active only in an aqueous medium, in which it seeks a particular organic structure whose deconstructed material it will use to make copies of itself. There is something analogous happening in the architectural world.

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The archival forms of an architectural meme include a building, its photograph, or a design generated on a computer. The image's active form, however, inhabits human brains, and commandeers their attached bodies to create copies of the image.

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Architectural images inhabit both the physical world and the attached world of information at the same time. This environment comprises the following interlinked components:. In this respect, information and communications technologies are instrumental in spreading architectural memes worldwide. Computer-Aided Design CAD programs have become an essential component in the universe of information. That is because a virtual building is trivially easy to represent on a computer screen, as compared to actually erecting a physical structure.

One might characterize the electronic world of virtual design as a laboratory in which new architectural memes are bred, before being unleashed into the outside world. In an interesting case of co-evolution, popular Computer-Aided Design software has now adapted itself to facilitate the representation of alien forms, by making it easier to generate them, while at the same time making it more difficult to design traditional structures containing coherent complexity on different scales which is one characteristic of living structure. In a virtual laboratory setting, one might have no idea of the destructive power of a particular architectural meme being developed, which becomes evident only after the design acquires physical embodiment as a building.

An image very rarely provides the same sensory feedback as the eventual full-scale structure. Virtual design is very much "a game" pursued in the supposed quest of architectural innovation. Since students and architects see computer-generated images much more than they complete actual buildings, this is a very effective method of transmitting unrealizable structures to their brain.

This way of working has actually turned into a brilliant coup, since those translucent images of unbuilt projects are so ambiguous as to be readable in many different ways. The viewer can inject his or her own conception into the ambiguous image, and so develop a liking for it. Small images on a screen can look "nice", "cute", or "exciting", thus creating a positive emotional attachment with the viewer. Many architectural commissions are won this way.

The same cannot be said of the finished building, however, which does not possess any degree of ambiguity -- a flaw architects try to counteract by using a lot of glass and reflective surfaces. Architectural memes make an emotional promise: they attract our attention because of their novelty. Forms that depart from our inherited idea of what a building ought to look like offer us surprise. At the same time, the complete separation of forms from real human needs helps to create a new link to a supposed innovation.

We are sold the myth that whoever appreciates those memes or, perhaps, whoever pretends to appreciate them is a sophisticated, up-to-date individual. If such forms provoke anxiety, all the better, since this is a well-known method in advertising: provoke visceral emotions -- it doesn't matter which emotions -- to better fix an image into our subconscious.

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Generating alien forms on a computer thus becomes an innocent game because it is divorced from the physiological and psychological consequences those full-size built forms will have on human beings. In very much the same way, a teenager can enjoy slaughtering virtual persons in a computer game; whereas real-life combat or terrorism takes a genuinely hardened character. Virtual reality provides a great training-ground for the real thing, not only because it sharpens skills, but especially because it fools the trainee into thinking it is all just a game. Even a cursory examination of currently popular architectural books and magazines reveals an alien universe of images, so radically detached from the real world of life and human beings.

As I outlined earlier, however, this virtual universe is merging into the other, real one, so that one can no longer make this distinction. It is most definitely not a preference between two different ways of architectural expression -- say, blobs on a computer screen versus traditional buildings drawn on paper -- having equivalent aesthetic validity. Rather, I wish to distinguish between architectural patterns that benefit human life, and destructive memes that subjugate the physical world to a virtual one.

In the majority of architecture schools today, memes are realized as approved models; design examples offered as good ideas to copy; and computer-generated designs.

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Academic architects conform to those memes in the belief that they are being "original". Those architects tend to live in an isolated world of images, not necessarily having anything to do with buildings. Their creative output can nowadays be judged strictly via a virtual portfolio. Architectural competitions and prizes are awarded on the basis of virtual designs, and so on. Within this world of images, everything architectural is reduced to visual representations.