The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or The Unit of Culture

The Holon/Parton Structure of the Meme, or The Unit of Culture

J. T. Velikovsky (University of Newcastle, Australia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch405
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Theoretical Perspective

The theoretical perspective adopted in this chapter is Evolutionary Systems Theory.5Introduction to Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm of Contemporary Thought,Laszlo (1972) incorporates Living Systems Theory (Miller, 1968)6 and Bunge’s hierarchical structures (Bunge, 1969) to provide a framework for understanding universal structures spanning from subatomic physics, through biology, chemistry, organisms, and social systems to the cosmos (Laszlo, 1972, pp. 29, 177-180). An illustration of this view is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

The Evolutionary Systems View, from the multiverse through to subatomic particles (derived from Laszlo 1972); image copyright IGI Global (Velikovsky 2016, p. 211)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Parton: (sensu Feynman 1975, 2005) The term in subatomic physics that Richard P. Feynman ( Feynman, 2005 , p. 278) created for the equivalent structure of: the holon.

Holon: (sensu Koestler 1967) ‘A holon … is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. and a part’ (Koestler 1967, p. 48).

Systems Theory: The study of systems and their environments - including system inputs, outputs, relations and interactions including the concept of emergence where the whole system (its structure, function and behavior) is more than the sum of its parts. For reviews of Systems Theory, Complexity and Emergence in biology and culture see (Sepännen in Altmann & Koch, 1998 , pp. 180-302), ( Sadowski, 1999 , pp. 7-10), ( Gershenson & Heylighen. (2005) . ( Warfield, 2006 , pp. 38-46), ( Lin, Duan, Zhao, & Xu, 2013 , pp. 1-22). Mobus & Kalton, 2014, 32–40.

Holon/Parton: A portmanteau synthesis of the terms holon and parton. A consilient (science and the arts) synthesis of these two terms used herein is ‘holon/parton’ as this term emphasizes the dual or ‘Janus-faced’ (Koestler, 1979, p. 27) nature of these whole/part entities; they are a whole and also a part at the same time in both biological and in socio-cultural systems and also in biological and biocultural units.

Culture: ‘Culture’ is knowledge encoded in symbol systems in the form of ideas, processes and products ( Csikszentmihalyi, 1996 ) including in science, the arts, media, religion, and languages. Examples of ideas include scientific theories (e.g., gravity, general and special relativity, evolution) and also literary and media characters and narratives (Sherlock Holmes, Anna Karenina, Harry Potter); examples of processes include cognitive processes: writing an email, having a conversation, reading a book and in science, pasteurization; examples of cultural products include the hand-axe, the spear, the wheel, words, books, movies, songs, the printing press, the telescope, the microscope, the car, the computer and iPod. As there is no culture without biology a synonym for ‘culture’ is ‘bioculture’.

Transmedia: A narrative extended across more than one media (e.g., across a movie, novel, videogame, nonfiction documentary and so on). Adaptations of a narrative from one media to another (e.g. novel-to-film) and prequels and sequels in the same media are not transmedia (see: Dena, 2009 ; Jenkins, 2011; Polson, Cook, Brackin, & Velikovsky, 2014 ; Kerrigan & Velikovsky, 2015 ).

Creativity: The standard definition of creativity is ‘original and useful’ namely a biocultural artifact (i.e., idea, process, product) judged ‘original and useful’ (‘novel and appropriate’) by a consensus of the audience (i.e. the field) for a specific domain in culture ( Runco & Jaeger, 2012 ). Examples of domains in culture include movies, literature, popular music, videogames, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology and all their various subdomains (including genres and subgenres).

Holarchy: Koestler defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons (Koestler, 1967, p. 103). Holarchies function according to the three laws of holarchies - which are also three laws of evolution in Systems Theory (see Laszlo, 1972 , pp. 55-118, 176-180) - namely: (1) competition and/or cooperation (and/or co-opetition), ‘sideways’ with other holon/partons on the same level; (2) integration upwards, into the larger holon/parton on the level ‘above’; and (3) control and command of holon/partons on the level ‘below’ (Koestler, 1964, 1967, 1978).

Meme: The unit of culture ( Dawkins 1976 ). Identified (thus defined) here as: the holon/parton (see: Velikovsky 2016 ).

Evolution (Biological, Cultural, Cosmic): Evolution can most simply be defined as ‘descent with modification’ ( Chaisson, 2001 ; Darwin, 1859 ). Here the concept of evolution includes the (post-1940s) Modern Evolutionary Synthesis (aka ‘Neo-Darwinism’) including Multilevel Selection Theory ( Gontier, 2012 ). ‘The evolutionary process requires variation, differential survival and reproductive success, and inheritance’ ( Capra & Luisi, 2014 , p. 200; see also Dennett, 1995 , p. 343). Laszlo (1972) explains atoms, biology and social systems as classes of natural (and sometimes designed) systems ‘sharing invariant fundamental properties’ ( Laszlo, 1972 , p. 56) and demonstrates that evolution occurs across natural systems ( Laszlo, 1972 , pp. 57-117). 11 Systems and artifacts (inputs and outputs) are selected (or deselected and thus ‘falsified’) by their environment ( Popper 1999 ). The iterative and recursive Evolutionary Algorithm (namely: variation, selection, transmission) satisfices rather than optimizes. 12

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