Memetics as informational difference: offering an information-centric conception of memes

Alexander O. Smith, Jeff Hemsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: Information scientists may find value in studying cultural information evolution and information diffusion through memetics. Information studies in memetics have often found datafication in memetics research difficult. Meanwhile, current memetic scholarship elsewhere is abundant in data due to their focus on Internet artifacts. This paper offers a way to close the datafication gap for information researchers by associating information data with “differences” between memetic documents. Design/methodology/approach: This work offers a joint theory and methodology invested in information-oriented memetics. This methodology of differences is developed from a content analysis of difference on a collection of images with visual similarities. Findings: The authors find that this kind of analysis provides a heuristic method for quantitatively bounding where one meme ends and another begins. The authors also find that this approach helps describe the dynamics of memetic media in such a way that the authors can datafy information or cultural evolution more clearly. Originality/value: Here the authors offer an approach for studying cultural information evolution through the study of memes. In doing so, the authors forward a methodology of difference which leverages content analysis in order to outline how it functions practically. The authors propose a quantitative methodology to assess differences between versions of document contents in order to examine what a particular meme is. The authors also move toward showing the information structure which defines a meme.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1149-1163
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Documentation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 9 2022


  • Difference
  • Digital images
  • Electronic media
  • Evolution
  • Generation and dissemination of information
  • Information science
  • Memetics
  • Philosophy
  • Semiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


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