Tag Archives: midtermeval

2.2.2 – Modulating Memetics

Stories may not actually breathe, but they can animate. The breath imputed by this book’s title (Letting Stories Breathe) is the breath of a god in creation stories, as that god gives life to the lump that will become human. Stories animate human life; that is their work. Stories work with people, for people, and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided. What is it about stories—what are their particularities—that enables them to work as they do? More than mere curiosity is at stake in this question, because human life depends on the stories we tell: the sense of self that those stories impart, the relationships constructed around shared stories, and the sense of purpose that stories both propose and foreclose

— Arthur Frank, Letting Stories Breathe (2010, as cited in Zipes 2012)

In this lesson and throughout our readings, many explanations (or disclaimers) are offered regarding our contemporary inability to discern true meaning from stories of old–many if which hold true for stories of all origins, beyond our studies of first nations literature. One of these challenges is first presented as a paradox whereby possession is made of the story by the storyteller them-self, thereby modulating the meaning to fit their own circumstance and world view. Thereby, there story changes each time the story is told to fit the advances and alterations concerned with each subsequent generation. This idea closely links to the theory of cultural information transfer known as “memetics”, first developed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in the 1970’s. Dawkins contended that a “meme” is a unit of evolutionary memory that is passed down through generations. Modern use of the word has taken reference to referring to technologically aided cultural transmission of symbols, jokes, and various other artifacts–yet the contemporary research being memetics spreads far beyond this use. Researcher Susan Blackmore, in her article “Consciousness in meme machines” states,

When people copy actions or words, those actions or words are copied with variation and then selectively retained and copied again. In other words the actions and words (the memes) fulfil the conditions for being a replicator in a Darwinian evolutionary process (Dawkins, 1976; Dennett, 1995)

This idea very well repurposes this theory into a context of the cultural transmission of morality and information contained within the art of storytelling.

The next reason that is proposed very well reinforces the importance the act of knowledge and morality sharing contained in the first. By outlining the tragedy of residential school systems and the other requirements contained within the Indian Act in Canada–the disconnect from understanding, especially amongst youth removed from their homes and culture–is profound. Between 1880-1951 this practice was banned across the country, thereby limiting most opportunities for the dissemination of stories amongst Indigenous cultures.

Source: mohawknationnews.com

This idea is very important as the residential schools by design directly removed children from the peak time when children are most affected by acculturation and/or develop their sense of place in the world.

This research comes from a interesting article on the phenomenon of cross cultural instances of similar fairy tales–stories which offer meaning to children in moral and social matters. As these children were removed from their communities during these formative times, and instead filled with Western ideology, these values and information were modulated by Western thought. Without placing judgement on that particular aspect, what this obviously presents is a compounding modulation of the stories upon reintegration to fit their altered world view

He meticulously describes why and how memes function for children within a civilizing process, or what he calls acculturation.
Memes, or cultural units of Information such as stories, form meme or culture pools over time. Children’s acculturation depends on
memes, which do not always function smoothly. They undergo change through innovation, the influence of chance events,
the social transmission between populations, the movement of carriers between populations,
the natural selection of cultural variants, preservation through free decisions, and coerced preservation.
Konner points out that “cultural constraints include the limits imposed by technology, mental habit, and other inertial
factors that correspond to stabilizing cultural selection, the default condition of cultural transmission.
Values, imposition, and cultural constraints, among other factors, affect the flow of memes,
so that different ones have different degrees of likelihood of being transmitted to the next generation’s culture pool.

Furthermore,  this gives significance to Harry’s alternation of stories to fit current reframed realities, such as the moon landing, in Wickwire’s introduction.  Wickwire presents two other reasons for the level of skepticism which needs to be applied to stories.  The first is presented by quoting Michael Harkin, “As Harkin explained, the collectors’ goal was to document “some overarching, static, ideal type of culture, detached from its pragmatic and socially positioned moorings among real people. Thus they, “systematically suppressed … all evidence of history and change”” An example of this is offered as removing the symbol of a gun from a published story to better fit the narrative of precontact Aboriginal culture. The anthropologist seeks to capture the wisdom of a “mythteller”, when the stories are told by individual storytellers who inflect their own wisdom unto the stories. You can see how each of these potential problems are all intertwined in a problematic feedback loop of sorts.

While a commonality amongst first nations storytelling can be offered as the interconnected nature of the natural, supernatural, and human worlds–the introduction of outside influences of the latter has modulated our collective recall of the stories themselves. As “Indigenous people had no gods”, the introduction of these foreign settlers emerged merely as varied “spirits” which took the form of human beings.  However, we also see the in Living in Stories how the separation of whites into the realm of a spiritual “Other” is bypassed, in lieu of a direct comparison of wisdom and morality amongst two distinctly similar human beings. Harry Robinson told this story of two twin brothers,

 …A pair of twins (were) charged to undertake a series of important tasks related to the creation of the earth and its first inhabitants. The elder twin performed his duties exactly as instructed, but the younger twin stole a written document— a “paper”—he had been warned not to touch. When confronted about his actions, he denied having done this. Because of this, he was immediately banished to a distant land across a large body of water. The elder twin was left in his place of origin.

This is certainly not to say that the Canadian treatment of Canadian culture makes whites deserving of humanized caricaturization in storytelling–however, what this shows is the retelling of a story to fit modern land disputes as a form of memetic expression and continuity.


Blackmore, Susan. Consciousness in Meme Machines.

Robinson, Harry. Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory.  Talonbooks, 2005.

Zipes, Jack. The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling and Fairy Tales: Human Communication and Memetics. Princeton University Press, 2012\

Memetics. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memetics



Assignment 2.1b

After reflecting upon the many blogs I have read on the topic of home I have, a) developed an interesting new perspective of the concept of home itself, and b) become self conscious of my writing after seeing the quality of insights of many of your posts over the past few weeks. I came back to university to gain a new perspective and to learn new things about the world-at-large. This assignment in particular has touched on both of these ideals, and I was humbled and honored to read many of your discussions.

While reading your posts one overarching theme emerged in my eyes: the shifting and objective reality of home.On Paniz Pasha’s blog, she discussed first hearing this concept from her Grade 10 teacher who remarked,

” My grade 10 teacher once told me “Home is located in the place you are best at adapting in”.

This was a very interesting idea to me, because it suggests (correctly) that home is a the reality that we accept, and that it changes with us. In particular, in Pacha’s story she offered how without ever consciously declaring that she had a new home here in Canada, it became one.

Krystle interestingly showed how even a virtual reality an manifest itself as a feeling of home.  Perhaps we place our emotional sense of home into a non physical space such as GTA V. Rabia’s post discusses a simiar idea with her discussion on David Seamon’s article, Physical and Virtual Environments: Meaning of Place and Space.

I am glad that we are able to share in reading each others blogs, precisely because I am able to be introduced to articles such as this. In this article they state pretty succinctly the creation of a physical and extra-physical sense of home.

Home is not only a physical place, but a locus of activities,an anchor of identity, a repository of memories bonding past and present, and a center of stability and continuity

Rabia also stated that the physical reality matters very little in the creation of a personal, fundamental idea of home. This is true, however I believe we can take that further and state that opposingly, the physical reality can offer, in three dimensions, a constant reminder of what makes a place significant. Lara Deglan’s story offered a reminder that the visible aging of a place can serve as a representation of how much we have changed while comparing it to the spaces themselves. Whether it is the comparison of how things have weathered–as in the case of the ’77 & ’91 Fords, or how things have stayed exactly the same–as with the elder cedar tree, the physical place can be significant in the development of a sense of home, but its significance can only be created through the passage of time.

Home is in constant motion. Yet, as the saying goes:

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,”


Seamon, David. Willard & Spackman’s Occupational Therapy, 12th Edition, B.Schell & M. Scaffa, editors. Philadelphia: Wippincott, Williams & Wilkens, 2012.
Karr, Alphonse. TOMBES ET SEPULTURES DANS LES CIMETIERES ET AUTRES LIEUX. http://www.tombes-sepultures.com/crbst_944.html

2.1 – Home

Home is everything that I’ve left. An ever-shifting reality.  The only one I know, really.

I’ve never defined it so much as the physical spaces, but the memories that each portrayed.

I don’t think I think of a single place when I think of home. When I feel lost, home are the places that I run to. Home is not where the heart is, it’s more of an internal compass–a suburban lighthouse, signaling and welcoming my retreat

Home feels like being lost on coast to coast adventures somewhere in the heartland. Like burning twilight for the last inning of neighbourhood baseball. It’s being the last pick of that team captain and just being happy that we’re gonna play some ball.

Home is made of flashing billboards of fading memories–sheet music to the harmony of youth.

I think that when we talk about home we all feel this way to some extent. Home is not a collection of things and crafted building materials, but a collection of memories. Here, I think, comes the oft cited juxtaposition between a house and a home.


A picture of the backyard of my childhood home is nothing I’d share on Instagram today. It’s green and overgrown in the summer, full of life—and more likely a murky brown, when not covered in snow, in the winter months.

Yet, this is where I would often find myself escaping.  Escaping even from the house that adorned the property. I spent summer evenings in the spaces in between my backdoor and the treeline chasing fireflies into soup containers. I’d marvel at their glow, and share with them that I’ve really been wanting a night-lite.

Our property really only contained a half-acre, meager by suburban Midwest standards. But the treeline, which began in our backyard, was but the open door to childhood adventure. I know today that the relative size was no larger than a shopping center parking lot. But as I child it contained limitless possibilities and the entirety of nature.

Maybe escaping from the sounds of familial bickering, or needing sometime away from my brothers and sisters, made me enjoy more the days we spent hiding in the never-ending shade of the massive oak-filled forest.

Mother Nature never made old growth forests for climbing; the branches are far too high on the trunk to grab onto. This just made me wonder more what the world might look like, sitting atop the canopy.

The smaller ones proved far better for climbing. The funny thing is, on afternoons I spent conquering altitude, I’d look down for the first time and remember that I’m afraid of such heights. It was at those moments that I’d stop, sit, and listen to the sounds of nothingness.


I realized just recently that I am always earphones whenever I’m walking to/from class or my home, and in doing so, I’m never truly alone with myself like I’d have been on those branches.

Heavy machinery tore down the grove one morning for a new development.


I spend the predawn on the weathered porch of my East Vancouver tenement wondering if you’re already tired of the Ohio suns. Half a world away; I’m just happy it isn’t raining.  It has been since the Olympics.

I often am asked what this place means to me.  I haven’t an answer for them, sometimes it just means that home is 2000 miles away.

Yet, I often ask myself when waking up to the mountains on the north shore how I could live ever anywhere else.

I don’t think you realize that a place is “home” until you leave it. When the sense of longing is tied to more than people. To a warm bed, a familiar scent, the sound that the chimney makes right before a storm.



What I Learned In Class Today: Aboriginal Issues in the Classroom.Dir. Karrmen Crey and Amy Perreault. First Nations Studies Program, U. of British Columbia, 2007. Web. http://www.intheclass.arts.ubc.ca