Other than the many ways in which we must all use the cultural or technological replication and transmission of information to seek purpose and sustainable personal or professional continuity, a study of the underlying processes, methods and mechanisms of this rich self-propagating information system is both fascinating and useful. Fascinating, in that knowledge and curiosity are deeply entangled and they are in essence their own rewards. Useful, in that understanding how the world changes and evolves may never or unambiguously and fully provide the means to understand why it does so, but it can provide an aperture into effecting possible (or probable) future cultural, ideological and technological information spaces.
In some ways, memes don’t really change all that much. It is just the methods of self-replication that undergo accelerating technological and communications systems evolution and metamorphosis. Culture itself might form, or compose, its own memetic entity or unity and the atomic components of its transmission (i.e. the memes) are merely partial or fragmentary and indistinct reflections of that vaster self-replicating whole.
In many ways a selfie is, in that aspiration to personal significance through visual social media, the method by which a logic of self-replication propagates itself. On one level, there are all these things going on in people’s lives and minds which lead them to seek participation in this visually symbolic medium; insecurities, tribal identifications, peer expectations, and so on. At another level, the selfie is merely the method and technology of cultural self-replication which propagates through the medium of human behaviour, a historically-contingent technological method and its representation in visual artefacts.
What in lived experience may be “a bit of fun” and is probably also a yearning for social and psychological (not to mention – technological) self-validation through posed, poised and pouting mobile self-portraits is simultaneously the replication of a cultural entity and whole through the function of its parts. The culture is the primary self-replicating information and communications system; it forms the central tapestry from which all these woven threads of self-expression are composed.
Disassembling the systems of our own self-propagation and sustainable continuity, as I am doing here, is also and always already merely the further self-propagation of this same logic and endlessly incomplete metamophosis of macroscopic cultural gestalt and microscopic, memetic entity or atom. Selfies are memes and memes are cultural selfies through which a logic and self-replication of the question of individual or cultural self-identity reproduces itself. By observing the activity and social media self-expression of all of these individual satellite selves, we can (as though by interferometry) derive or deduce an indirect image of the whole culture and civilisation within which we find ourselves; by analysis of the particular we are able to determine properties of the general and in so doing successfully bootstrap this inductive loop back upon itself in something resembling an epistemological closure.