Posted by: Dan | July 2, 2008

An Interlude on Memes

In a faltering effort to start a ‘meme’, I asked the following question: “when confronted with ‘the Poor’ of our day, how do you justify your own academic endeavours?”

I had only a few people take me up on this question — mostly in the comments section, although Patrik responded on his blog (http://shrinkinguni.blogspot.com/2008/06/meme-academy-and-poor.html). To be honest, I’m not that surprised that few theo or biblio bloggers picked up this meme. I reckon the lack of response is due, in part, to at least two things: (1) the fact that this is a difficult question to answer, and one that most academics prefer to avoid dwelling on in detail (or, perhaps, have never bothered to dwell on in detail); and (2) the fact that most memes operate as a means of self-branding, wherein we increase our own personal brand status by demonstrating our knowledge and diversity of reading or experience in various realms of life and culture. Consequently, memes about things like our favourite books, or movies, or twentieth century theologians, or whatever else, are (1) easy to write; and (2) increase our own brand-status by showing others the depth and (surprising!) diversity of our tastes.

If that’s not bad enough, these memes also operate well within a culture of consumption, and can be an effective means of advertising goods to other consumers. We read these memes and think, ‘I should go buy that book!’ or ‘I should go rent that movie!’ and so on and so forth. The same thing goes for other links we often provide on our blogs — things like amazon wish lists come to mind — a convenient ways of self-branding that also perpetuates cycles of consumption.

Hence, my usual hesitation to take part in these activities (my monthly reading lists being the notable exception). It’s true, taking part in memes is a good way to increase the traffic that your blog gets — it lets you tag others, who then tag you, resulting in new readers coming to your blog, and so on and so forth — but this is why I deliberately chose not to tag anybody in my previous post. Honestly, if we’re writing on our blogs simply in order to draw readers — if we’re writing simply because we desire an (ever increasing) audience — then I reckon we’re writing for the wrong reasons.

That said, I really should get around to responding to the question that I posed regarding the Academy and the Poor…

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