Wiki and the “Memetic” Marketplace

An interesting thing has happened in the lawsuit brought by Apple against several mac rumor sites. A California appellate judge issued a ruling that supports the independent sites’ right to keep their sources confidential – and cited Wikipedia in the ruling. Initially, a California district court sided with Apple, saying blogs and amateur news sites weren’t protected by California’s shield law and would have to disclose the sources who leaked trade secrets about several forthcoming products, but appellate Judge Conrad Rushing disagreed. The Register article on this is somewhat sarcastic in its treatment of Wikipedia and Judge Rushing’s decision, saying, “Judge Rushing cites Wikipedia as a source, a mistake which earns students an ‘F’ grade today. He talks about the need to disregard economics and sociology in favor of a “memetic marketplace” – whatever that is – and allows himself some flights of technological rapture.”

I’m a little surprised to see them dismiss memetic as if it’s an esoteric concept when in fact the meme is a very important present and future unit of value. The meme is a blog post, wiki page, an article on one of the mac rumor sites – these are the units of culture in the memetic society. Garr Reynolds, a blogger whose work I admire, writes that Harley Davidson is the only company with a greater and more loyal fan base than Apple – this makes Apple one of the most important epicenters of memetic activity. The rest of the technology world, industries as far ranging as design, music, & cars, and countless devoted users watch Apple’s every move and imitate or draw inspiration from its products. lt is only natural that a vibrant community would grow out of genuine interest and would eagerly devour rumors, not with the intention of harming, but intending to use the new innovations and spread the word among friends.

In this environment the meme has become the means by which information is communicated, which enables the collaborative construction of larger ideas by aggregation instead of synthesis alone. Judge Rushing is absolutely correct – we should embrace and expand the memetic marketpace, because it is the platform for unprecedented acceleration in the development and evolution of ideas.

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