Title page for ETD etd-05222003-135128

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Jesiek, Brent K.
Author's Email Address bjesiek@vt.edu
URN etd-05222003-135128
Title Betwixt the Popular and Academic: The Histories and Origins of Memetics
Degree Master of Science
Department Science and Technology Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Downey, Gary L. Committee Chair
Boler, Megan M. Committee Member
Reeves, Barbara J. Committee Member
  • discipline formation
  • history
  • meme
  • memetics
  • popularization
  • origin stories
Date of Defense 2003-04-21
Availability restricted
In this thesis I develop a contemporary history of memetics, or the field dedicated to the study of memes. Those working in the realm of meme theory have been generally concerned with developing either evolutionary or epidemiological approaches to the study of human culture, with memes viewed as discrete units of cultural transmission. At the center of my account is the argument that memetics has been characterized by an atypical pattern of growth, with the meme concept only moving toward greater academic legitimacy after significant development and diffusion in the popular realm. As revealed by my analysis, the history of memetics upends conventional understandings of discipline formation and the popularization of scientific ideas, making it a novel and informative case study in the realm of science and technology studies. Furthermore, this project underscores how the development of fields and disciplines is thoroughly intertwined with a larger social, cultural, and historical milieu.
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