Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Culture Bomb

NB: this was mined with minimal changes from a thread

I may or may not have come up with this idea. I suspect I may have stolen it from GM through crypomnesia, prediction, wanking, following the same line of thought, or quantum telepathy dongs.

You all might be aware of the idea of memebombs. I frame memebombs in a slightly different structure than the Discordian Power Elite (whoever they are), so I'll summarize my model: you've got at least one memeplex (a bunch of ideas that play nice together) and one of them is probably dominant most of the time. A memebomb is a short slogan that targets common dominant memeplexes and subverts them in such a way that they either self-annihilate, become patently absurd, or mutate into something else entirely (ideally). You more or less want to target a memeplex and get behind its defenses, and then poke it until it explodes, loses an eye, or grows a new eye. In the BIP metaphor, a memebomb blows up a wall, leaving shrapnel everywhere to use for remodeling.

Alright. But there are a couple problems with memebombs. One problem is that, being short slogans, one can recognize them for what they are more often and just block them out. Another is that they only target one memeplex -- if you hit the dominant one, the next most dominant will probably try to take over, and if you hit a non-dominant one it may just give the others more power over the behavior of the person. Three, there's only so much distribution it can get before being subverted itself. Four, the form tends to make people think that anything short and clever-sounding counts as a memebomb, which is why the SOMA is full of dreck.

Alright. So, what's a culture bomb? Well, a culture is more or less a whole ecosystem of memeplexes fed to children (and adults). A culture is somewhat like a genre in fiction -- a set of cliched yet not necessarily negative or counterfactual tropes (in this case, ideology or psychology tropes) that are often found together more or less for hysterical rasins (tradition or whatever). A culture bomb is the nonfiction equivalent of a deconstructor fleet, and the memebomb equivalent of a kiloton nuke full of anthrax and mercury. The culture bomb is a full work of fiction disguised as a genre piece that, hypersigil-like, subverts or mutates entire aspects of the culture of the target audience only after the reader has had enough time to finish it, chew on it, and recommend it to friends.

There are several possible media for culture bombs. I'll suggest a few I'm considering, along with pros and cons.

American comics
Pro: absurdly rich source of material to play with, some established names who might play along, already the home of plenty of successful hypersigils both accidental and on purpose
Con: difficult to get in on, big names (big red arrow pointing to you), still kinda fringe, ascended fanboys at the gates

Pros: subverts an existing canon and promulgates your ideas in fanon if you're lucky, easy access to a reasonably wide audience, relative anonymity
Cons: thirteen year old girls aren't exactly the pinnacle of society, ideas may mutate to subvert your original intent or just sterilize it in derivative works, you need to be a fan to start out with, you have to write actually good fanfiction, anne rice might sue you

Pros: potentially huge audience, easily time-segmented so that people can be brought into the fold by fans before the intent is even fulfilled, potentially madly obsessive fans
Cons: may be even less mainstream than american comics, you need to be able to draw probably, everyone else had the same idea too after they made their blog and wiki and joined twitter

Pro: tendency towards high-frequency high-feedback communication within an imageboard can refine ideas
Con: tendency towards high-frequency high-feedback communication within an imageboard can subvert and/or sterilize intent, tldr responses

Bonus: the idea of a culturebomb might itself be a culturebomb if introduced in the right context. I'm planning to work it into a later chapter of a story.

You might consider a number of existing phenomena (historically) to be culturebombs. In fact, particular ideas have drastically modified the cultures from which they were born, in absurd and unpredictable ways.

* Nuclear weapons -- caused the cold war, the idea of mutually assured destruction, deterrent-based warfare, "purity of essence"
* The holy trinity -- people can be monotheists and polytheists simultaenously by not knowing how to count, a man can be his own son and a ghost at the same time
* Darwinian natural selection -- led to memetics, was used as an excuse by businessmen and nazis, caused some groups of creationists to ask very strange questions about monkeys

Any piece of good art can be considered a culturebomb to some extent, but culturebombs are more often accidental. This might be because people are bad at making them on purpose, or it might be because people weren't thinking about them in a way that's conducive to making them. It might also be because no one wants to make them.

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