Reinforming memes: a literature review of the status of memetic information

Alexander O. Smith, Jeff Hemsley, Zhasmina Y. Tacheva

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Our purpose is to reconnect memetics to information, a persistent and unclear association. Information can contribute across a span of memetic research. Its obscurity restricts conversations about “information flow,” the connections between “form” and “content,” as well as many other topics. As information is involved in cultural activity, its clarification could focus memetic theories and applications. Design/methodology/approach: Our design captures theoretical nuance in memetics by considering a long standing conceptual issue in memetics: information. A systematic review of memetics is provided by making use of the term information across literature. We additionally provide a citation analysis and close readings of what “information” means within the corpus. Findings: Our initial corpus is narrowed to 128 pivotal memetic publications. From these publications, we provide a citation analysis of memetic studies. Theoretical directions of memetics in the informational context are outlined and developed. We outline two main discussion spaces, survey theoretical interests and describe where and when information is important to memetic discussion. We also find that there are continuities in goals which connect Dawkins’s meme with internet meme studies. Originality/value: To our knowledge, this is the broadest, most inclusive review of memetics conducted, making use of a unique approach to studying information-oriented discourse across a corpus. In doing so, we provide information researchers areas in which they might contribute theoretical clarity in diverse memetic approaches. Additionally, we borrow the notion of “conceptual troublemakers” to contribute a corpus collection strategy which might be valuable for future literature reviews with conceptual difficulties arising from interdisciplinary study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Documentation
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Citation analysis
  • Culture studies
  • Information studies
  • Memetics
  • Systematic literature review
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Library and Information Sciences


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