Future Human: Meme Control

FUTURE HUMAN presents MEME CONTROL on Wednesday November 20 at The Book Club, 100-106 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4RH.

‘Cerebral and sexy – one of London’s best talk events’ – The Evening Standard

‘Hip, intellectual… book early, tickets sell like hot cakes’ – Time Out

‘The salon has arrived in the 21st century’ – The Sunday Times

In 1976 the biologist Richard Dawkins outlined his theory that competing genes were the primary engines of evolution in his book The Selfish Gene. Elsewhere in the book he coined a conceptual term that has come to profoundly impact culture in the Internet age: ‘the meme’.

Shortening the Greek word mimeme, which means ‘imitated thing’, Dawkins explained that the meme was a unit of human cultural evolution equivalent to the gene. But instead of transmitting genetic material, as a gene does, the meme communicates cultural phenomena: ideas, melodies, catchphrases, fashion or technologies.

Over the years the concept has excited great interest in the advertising and marketing industries, where embedding ideas in the minds of consumers through jingles and creative advertising has long been a measure of success. Their hope is that the study of memes and the culture that they propagate could lead to ‘memetic engineering’, and the highly profitable modification of our tastes, our beliefs and our behaviours. And yet for all of their designs, the human brain remains difficult to decode and mass behaviour on the Internet continues to surprise.

At Meme Control, Future Human will delve into the emerging science of memes, from Gangnam Style to Norse popsters dressed as foxes, LOLcats to customised gifs, acts of random charity and even violent jihad. What is it that makes these cultural transmissions spread so quickly, embed themselves in the global and individual consciousness, and change the way we view the world? And can they really be understood, controlled and corporatised?

Joining us to answer these questions are expert guests whose work is collectively focused on decoding the human ‘memome’.

Sarah Wood is co-founder of Unruly Media, a marketing company that uses rich data sets to monitor the spread of ideas and viral content online. Her accolades includes being picked as one of London’s key rising entrepreneurs by both Forbes and Inc., and being named UK Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the Growing Business awards.

Tony Sampson is the author of Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, which explores how digital information spreads and becomes viral, not just mimicking biological forms but creating a whole new kind of information diffusion. Tony is a lecturer at the University of East London, and has also conducted research into video games and the dark side of the Web.

Stuart Calimport is the founder of The Human Memome Project, which aims to uses memes as a means of improving public health. He investigates how our contagious behaviours can be used to enhance wellbeing and lifespan, and create political change, researching how social networks can effect change through the viral transmission of ideas.

Can a deeper appreciation of I Can Has Cheezburger really make you rich? Why must we know ‘What the Fox Says’? To find out, join us in the Book Club at 7pm on Wednesday November, where we will speculate, accumulate and aggregate in the name of radical progress.

FUTURE HUMAN presents MEME CONTROL on Wednesday November 20 at The Book Club, 100-106 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4RH. The evening will commence at 7pm and continue until 10pm. Tickets are available in advance and will be held under your name on the door: note that you will need to supply name ID. Once again, tickets will be held under your name and not sent to your address – please remember to bring a name ID document.

Link to Future Human: Meme Control

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About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. A former musician, he studied computer technology and cultural theory before receiving a PhD in sociology from the University of Essex. His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) and Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, due 2018). He is organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK, a co-founder of Club Critical Theory and Director of the EmotionUX Lab at UEL. He occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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