Comic Talk and General Discussion

Sexism in comics and pop-culture?
ozoneocean at 6:54AM, July 10, 2015
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I never said all aspects of culture were universal (although your own fouss on biological determinisim would argue that you think differently yourself…).
 
My intention was to state that we ourselves look at the smorgasboard of pop-culture as one dish that we sample from depending on our tastes.
It doesn't matter if you don't understand something in exactly the same way a native speaker of the original culture would, if it DID we'd all be limited to only evaluating stuff produced by our own countries, maybe even within our own cities, or own families! o_O
 
We have the mental tools and expereince to be able to look little wider and we're all bright enough to evaluate pop-cuture products on our own terms anyway.
- i.e. "How do I relate to this?“ as opposed to ”How would a repressed lesbian mongoliain yak farmer from the 16th century repond to that?"
 
irrevenant at 5:14PM, July 10, 2015
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I kinda want to read that story about the repressed lesbian Mongolian yak farmer now. :/
Hawk at 2:16PM, July 22, 2015
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I don't think it's “sexist” to have fewer female characters in a comic, movie, or game.  The worst you can say is it's “less interesting” or “lacking in variety”.  Having Black Widow as the only woman in Avengers isn't a slight toward women, it's design choice.  And while I think a superhero team consisting of people with a wide range of sizes, shapes, superpowers, and gender ratio is a more ineteresting superhero team, it's an artistic design choice that I don't think should be policed.  Designing something more for boys is not a crime or sexist, and neither is designing something for girls.  Comics aren't a governemnt service entitled to all people equally, they're a product made by people creating the stories they want to make.  That's why I don't think Marvel and DC owe us female characters.
 
“Will my comic be more interesting if I add women to it?”  “Will more autonomous and interesting women open up my comic to new audiences?” THESE are the questions people should be asking… not trying to find ways to apply shameful labels to people who are merely making artistic decisions and not really harming anyone.  I think a lot of people would find the answer to those questions to be “Yes” in many cases, but it's up to them to decide that.
 
 
ozoneocean at 9:01PM, July 22, 2015
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Hawk, I'm not talking about policing here, but these are way more that just “artistic” or “creative choices”. With big film projects WAY more stuff than that is taken into account. These things are very carefully aimed at a mass audience, and excluding women from them IS pretty bad.
 
Even the “aimed at boys” theng. No movie is aimed at boys these days. Kids movies are unisex and films like Avengers are aimed at something like 14 to 35 year olds. Now saying that THOSE films are “primarily for men” (if you were to), would be SO wrong, so out dated… The world just doesn't work that way anymore.
Women like comics. They like action, they like violence. It's time we stopped artifically excluding them by imagining we're still living in the 1940s.
 
irrevenant at 11:58PM, July 22, 2015
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It's not automatically sexist to have fewer female characters.  But the glaring question there is "Why did you make the design choice to have an unrepresentatively small number of women in this work?“. Once you rule out premise-specific reasons like ”Umm, it's set in a men's prison?“ the answer to that is often sexist assumptions like ”Because more people will see the movie if it has more guys in it“.
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In the case of the Avengers, this is actually the extension of an *old* bit of sexism - it's based on a comic universe that has historically promoted the male characters at the expense of female ones. Note that this includes making the characters male in the first place - there's no reason that Captain America, Iron (Wo)man or the Hulk couldn't have been women other than that they're relics of a more sexist time where ”soldier“, ”scientist“ or ”inventor/entrepreneur“ was automatically assumed to mean ”guy“. (The existence of people like Joan of Arc and Marie Curie make that a sexist assumption even back then - and google ”Women have always fought"  
Hawk wrote:
I don't think it's “sexist” to have fewer female characters in a comic, movie, or game.  The worst you can say is it's “less interesting” or “lacking in variety”.  Having Black Widow as the only woman in Avengers isn't a slight toward women, it's design choice.
last edited on July 23, 2015 2:28AM
ozoneocean at 1:03AM, July 23, 2015
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I would tend to agree with you irrevenant, but for the fact that while those assumptions were certainly in force, the comic buying audience those properities were aimed at WERE male and that's what they wanted to see and so that's why they bought them.
  
I know that sounds similar to the position of El Cid and the rest, but we cannot be too retroactive with this stuff.
We CAN redress the balance now, and the culture has shifted so that women consume and enyoy these genres just as much s men do (idiotic to pretend they do not).
  
I don't agree with gender shifting established characters though, I don't think that adresses the situation properly at all.
I don't think you're advocating that, but it's a trend and I thought it'd be interesting to bring up.
 
I think a fantastic example of how to do things right are proprties like Xena and Mad Max Fury Road.
Xena was a totally new, made up character who was a female spin-off of the very popular, well established Hurcules. Her series went on long after his ended and massively eclipsed his in popularity.  Now if they'd just made Herk a woman instead that would have absoloutely sucked.
In Mad Max Fury Road the totally new character Furiousa is introduced and she steals the show. She was brilliant. Now imagine if they'd have just gendershifter Max? It was have confused and annoyed the audience and reduced her power and impact has a character.
 
irrevenant at 2:51AM, July 23, 2015
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ozoneocean wrote:
I would tend to agree with you irrevenant, but for the fact that while those assumptions were certainly in force, the comic buying audience those properities were aimed at WERE male and that's what they wanted to see and so that's why they bought them.
  
  
Can you confirm that fans wouldn't have bought comics at least as voraciously if they'd had a more representative mix of gender? That seems fundamentally unprovable to me. (Note that this assumes comparably-written characters - the pool is tainted a bit when comic producers assume that idiocy like “Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane” is all the female audience wants).


I know that sounds similar to the position of El Cid and the rest, but we cannot be too retroactive with this stuff.
We CAN redress the balance now, and the culture has shifted so that women consume and enjoy these genres just as much as men do (idiotic to pretend they do not).
  


We can indeed redress the balance now. A good way to start would have been to select some female Avengers for the roster in the first movie. I'm more of a DC guy, but to me, The Wasp (who was an original Avenger in the comics), Ms/Captain Marvel (either Monica or Carol), Tigra, She-Hulk and Spider-Woman all seem like reasonable to include from the beginning. (Wasp you could give a secretive origin to lay seeds for the Ant-Man movie).  



I don't agree with gender shifting established characters though, I don't think that adresses the situation properly at all.
I don't think you're advocating that, but it's a trend and I thought it'd be interesting to bring up.
 
I think a fantastic example of how to do things right are proprties like Xena and Mad Max Fury Road.
Xena was a totally new, made up character who was a female spin-off of the very popular, well established Hurcules. Her series went on long after his ended and massively eclipsed his in popularity.  Now if they'd just made Herk a woman instead that would have absoloutely sucked.
In Mad Max Fury Road the totally new character Furiousa is introduced and she steals the show. She was brilliant. Now imagine if they'd have just gendershifter Max? It was have confused and annoyed the audience and reduced her power and impact as a character.
  
It's funny you should say that because I just gender-shifted my character, Chaos. xD He wasn't exactly what you'd call ‘established’ though.
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Generally I agree with your points. The best way to do that is generally through legacy characters (and Fury Road could easily have starred Max's daughter Max). One problem with DC's constant rebooting is that every time the DCU starts getting more diverse, they hit the reset button and we get rolled back to the same bunch of white dudes (plus Wonder Woman) who founded the Justice League in the 1960s. -_-
last edited on July 23, 2015 2:54AM
bravo1102 at 3:10AM, July 23, 2015
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Pop culture evolves.  So has the preception of women in our regular culture but has it evolved to the same magnitude in pop culture or are we still stuck in the virgin/whore/mother acchetype mindset of the 1950's?

Obvious examples of this virgin/whore mentality are pop singers. Taylor Swift as virgin and Miley Cyrus as whore to use two recent easily recognizable examples. Though Taylor Swift is doing her damnest to break it as did others like Alannis Morrisette before her.  Maybe they're a subset of “whore” bitch. But then everywhere you do it can be said that's all you see women as. Virgin, whore, bitch, or mother.  That is sexism.  Women can't be independent thinking people like a male, if she expresses herself she's a bitch. If she expresses her sexuality, she's a whore. So if unattached she's left with virgin.  And if in a relationship it's “when are you going to have kids?” Mother.  

The same extends into comics and pop culture.  That was the appeal of Xena. She didn't fit the archetypes. Some owuld argue she was bitch, but she transcended that to become an individual. Though it can be said she became a new archetype GRRL. You know the butch Amazon stereotype which be a suset of bitch or just a guy with boobs.  But again Xena evolved past that.  That's why I like Black Widow in the Avengers movies so far.  She also doesn't easily fit the archetypes and seems independent oweing not a little to Emma Peel perhaps.

Now that was a gender stereotype busting role.  But then it was the 1960's. And Dame Diana Rigg is still doing it with her role on Game of Thrones.  That is one series that is has all the female characters fit the archetypes. Arya is bitch, Sansa is virgin, Cersei is mother(the bitch protective side) and the silver haired queen is whore. That character is trying to evolve past that but the archetype sticks all too well so far.  And now she's getting married and be a queen to try to become mother.

That is sexism.  Or at least one view of it. (can you say Upworthy?)  Fits everything into categories and there is no busting out of them unless you turn pop culture on its head. It is pretty reductionist and the categories are socially programmed assumptions not reflections of reality? I don't really try to figure it out just use it as more grist for the mill in my writing and world-building.
Hawk at 7:23AM, July 23, 2015
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Ozone, you're not really getting my point about who things are aimed at.  I'm saying that NOBODY is entitled to have a commercial product aimed at them, and that unfortunately includeds women.  If somebody wants to make a movie where EVERY character is a man, it's not “sexist”, it's just risky and possibly narrow-minded.  Artistic license and capitalism allow an artist to make those decisions.  Luckily most people are smart enough to be more inclusive, because they understand that it gives their product a wider audience.  They shouldn't be required to do so.
 
Now, please understand, I'm not saying “Comics and movies don't need women”, I'm saying that I disagree with the idea of “This comic artist didn't put enough women in his comic for my liking, so now I'm going harass him on twitter and write snarky blog articles, because everything must be designed to my taste.”
 
bravo1102 at 8:00AM, July 23, 2015
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There are plenty of movies with no female characters. They tend to be about situations where you would not see a woman  typically war movies. In fact some critics find the inclusion of women into such films intrusive and deters from the film. The intrusive and unnecessary romantic subplot in Pearl Harbor is one notable example. The excellent film Sahara (1943) is one without anyou females and is arguably better for it. A movie where the women are just objects is far worse than one with no women at all.
last edited on July 23, 2015 8:01AM
KimLuster at 8:47AM, July 23, 2015
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Are we rehashing stuff?  I'm totally fine with that! :D
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I love female action heroes, and I hope to see more of them in future movies and other media, but I really do hate when they feel ‘shoehorned’ in, or when they're filling some sort of ‘quota’ thing!  The female bunny (Lola) in Space-Jam felt like that to me - “Don't call me doll…”  It felt like an active attempt to include diversity while also showcasing sexism… and it also felt fake to me…   
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It's better to just let it happen naturally, organically…  It worked with the Hunger Games movies.  Someone wrote a set of novels that became bestsellers, and someone else decided they'd make great movies - there was no drive or agenda to make the protagonist female….  She just… was!  Twilight is similiar (though I hate those…sorry)
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It seems the thing that is needed most is more female creators (who naturually tend to write more from the female side - we write what we know…) to actually go out there and start doing some ‘creating’.  Then, I believe more female characters would become popular via the normal creative process and market, and then we just watch where it goes.  I think it's already happening that way to an extent, but more females have to get involved…  
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I once heard someone complain about there not being enough female guitar players!  Well, girls, get out there and learn to play guitar dammit!!  Trust me - Guys would LOVE seeing a girl shred on stage!!
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As insinuated here, I think it might actually be damaging to make a super-heroine movie just because someone feels there's a shortage of super-heroine movies.  I think that sort of motive/agenda shows through in the final product and the story suffers because of it - because we (maybe subconsciously) know what's being done!
last edited on July 23, 2015 8:50AM
bravo1102 at 9:21AM, July 23, 2015
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t is an Internet law. Threads of a certain length start repeating themselves and should therefore be closed. It is just like the Nazianz simile regarding politics. The discussion is effectivelying over once a political is called Nazi or fascist unless they are demonstruly so.
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irrevenant at 7:17PM, July 23, 2015
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From my perspective, what you're saying is true, but it's also viewing the issue at a different level than I'm talking about. 
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Essentially a lack of gender balance in a work is a significant symptom.  It may or may not lead to a diagnosis of sexism depending on other factors. There are many possible causes for that particular symptom.
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Yes, you could employ a blunt instrument and say “X% of comic characters need to be women” to treat the symptom. But that just imposes a duty rather than genuiny increasing understanding and empathy. It doesn't treat the underlying disease of sexism, it just adds a modifier to its outcomes. 
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The disease can only really be treated by getting to the underlying assumptions and unravelling them. 
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In terms of “noone is entitled to have a product aimed at them”, I agree. And I totally agree that harassment is a completely pointless way to try to change someone's mind. But expressing a personal opinion is entirely reasonable: “Your comic is great. Have you thought about having more women main characters? I enjoy your comic a lot and that would be icing on the cake.”, for example. That opens a dialogue rather than a lecture. 
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I partially disagree about snarky blog articles. Personally, I think snark is overrated and often unhelpful. But a blog is your personal space to express how you feel about things - using it to bitch about things you don't like is half the point of a blog. I think it's exactly the right place for people to put their snarky comments about X.  
Hawk wrote:
Ozone, you're not really getting my point about who things are aimed at.  I'm saying that NOBODY is entitled to have a commercial product aimed at them, and that unfortunately includeds women.  If somebody wants to make a movie where EVERY character is a man, it's not “sexist”, it's just risky and possibly narrow-minded.  Artistic license and capitalism allow an artist to make those decisions.  Luckily most people are smart enough to be more inclusive, because they understand that it gives their product a wider audience.  They shouldn't be required to do so.
 
Now, please understand, I'm not saying “Comics and movies don't need women”, I'm saying that I disagree with the idea of “This comic artist didn't put enough women in his comic for my liking, so now I'm going harass him on twitter and write snarky blog articles, because everything must be designed to my taste.”
irrevenant at 7:43PM, July 23, 2015
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PS. The whole Miley Cyrus thing is weird. Like Britney before her, she got reclassified from “virgin” to “whore” practically overnight. 
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It's like, as a society, we can't wrap our heads around the fact that kids grow up despite the fact that we all did it. Young adulthood is a time for experimentation and working out who we are. We all do stupid crap as young adults. It's not our whole identity. 
bravo1102 at 3:53AM, July 24, 2015
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irrevenant wrote:
PS. The whole Miley Cyrus thing is weird. Like Britney before her, she got reclassified from “virgin” to “whore” practically overnight. 
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 Looked at cynically it could have just been a marketing strategy to cash in on her becoming an adult. Look at the Japanese “idol” culture for a funny reflection.  It's almost like they produce the idols on an assmbly line, push it then turn to the next one.  There are marketing cynics who seize on trends in society to aim products at demographics.  Most of pop culture is perception not reality.  Making someone see something in a certain way can have them believing it is that way even if it's not.  And then humans aren't generally good at critically analyzing their perception to get a deeper more accurate view of reality. They're also really bad at being able to determine long term trends or seeing the “Big picture”

This is especialy true in pop culture because it often seems to be an eternal “NOW” and it is very hard to remember anything from last week let alone that exactly the same thing happened 10 years ago or it's been trending that way since the 1920's or something. Let alone noticing the  incredible similarities of the crumudgen/cynical point of views of Pop culture from Socrates to Mark Twain to today. They each say the same thing.  Sports team fandom and soccar riots is the same phenomenon as the color riots in ancient Byzantium.

Human society has always followed similar patterns. Each even have those who insist that this is a unique time without percedent in history.   It can lead to the perception that these patterns are somehow innate in the human animal.  After this long discussion I'm almost beginning to think nature and nurture are the same thing in different settings and are so entwined that it's impossible at this stage in the game to tell them apart without really, really stepping back and looking at so many different cultures across the world. You got to  get an idea at how culutral differences in interpretation spell out species similarites that can't be seen in the otherwise eternal NOW of pop culture.  What are the similaries between an Inuit a modern American and an African Bushman? That's innate in the species.  Looking at the varying interpretations of a pop phenomenon between Asian and Western culture is society.  But seeing how the same idea developed thousands of miles apart without interaction… well human minds arrive at the same conclusions about certain things nearly every time.  Problem solving is a trait innate in the species and often the same probelms can be solved the same way again and again indpedently of each other. That's innate in the species. 
last edited on July 24, 2015 4:00AM
ozoneocean at 5:09AM, July 24, 2015
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Bravo speaking with a crumbly English accent said:
'Twas ever thus!
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Sorry, I don't mean to make fun but that quote has been going around in the humour centre of my brain for days.
 
You make good points about repeating patterns but taking it to the nature level is a step way too far. As always. 
I think part of the issue here us that humans are a highly culture based species: we grab onto ideas and concepts and turn them around and over and over for thousands of years till we think they're a part of us, like racial superiority or sexisim, religion, gods, souls, even langauge, the drive to refine technology, wear clothes, and rational thinking.
We copy ideas, sythasise them and pass them on to others and down through generations, like the flu virus…
It's Dawkins' greatest contribution to popculture: the meme.
 
bravo1102 at 5:59AM, July 24, 2015
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By innate to the species I'm  saying Society is a part of our nature. As uou habe said humans are social creatures. Societies face similar problems. It makes sense the same solutions would pop up without it being  genetic but the ideas being passed on in a fashion similar to how a gene is passed on. The meme.o
KimLuster at 6:36AM, July 24, 2015
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I'm re-reading a fascinating book called ‘I am a Strange Loop’ by Doug Hosfstadter.  He hold to the standard thinking that the physical part of our minds seems to do a lot of the ‘pushing around’ of behavior (causing us to act and think in all our myriad ways)…  But, when our minds developed abstract thinking (ie. the ability to create mentally symbolic representations of real things) a paradigm shift occurred…
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It's currently impossible to reduce a mental symbol to its physical constituents (and due to the nature of how symbols reside in the brain, it may never be possible).   There's no such thing as a ‘Grandmother Cell’ (a particular neuron that is responsible for remembering your grandmother) - symbols are not stored in distinct one-to-one physical patterns…
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But the really interesting part is it seems that our mental symbols (a emergent non-physical thing) can also do the ‘pushing around’!  My memory of my grandmother can induce a desire to see her, and I might just go get in the car and go do that!
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So… Culture!
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What is Culture but a giant collective mish-mash of symbols?!  Clearly some powerful symbols, and while I'm not backing away from my previous assertions on the power of biological drives (I still believe they are the kick-starters of lots of our less-savory behaviors), I absolutely do believe that symbols (ie. culture) can certainly overpower them, perhaps much more than I was initially allowing!!
Abt_Nihil at 6:51AM, Aug. 18, 2015
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KimLuster: That's interesting! I wasn't aware of Hofstadter's book, but reading up on it, the argument sounds much like functionalism: Things can be causally effective not only due to their physical properties, but also due to their functional ones.
 
For example, there is nothing which all instances of any given word have in common which could be spelled out in purely physical terms - some are written in ink, some are contrast between pixels, and so on, not to mention all the (actual and potential) differences between typefaces -, but what they have in common is that they are used as the same word. This applies to all symbols (and symbolically mediated classifications, such as those pertaining to matters of gender, to tie this back to the thread's topic); and what lends disparate physical properties their symbolic ones is culture. So, yes, I agree: Culture is certainly causally effective by itself (i.e. not just in virtue of being physical).
last edited on Aug. 18, 2015 7:06AM
KimLuster at 2:04PM, Aug. 18, 2015
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Abt_Nihil: certainly worth a look!  The author is essentially trying to say that ‘Conciousness’ is akin to a feedback-loop: mental symbology is an emergent phenomenon brought into being by the chemical and electric interplay of the brain's cells (standard thinking), but then the emergent mental symbols themselves seem to have a ‘distinctness’, a sort of existence impossible to describe using normal physical and biological terminology.  Moreover, the symbols themselves seem to have causal power, the ability to make other parts of the brain ‘do things’, to make muscles move, the body performs actions…
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Who's pushing who around up there? :D  Great reading!  I certainly embrace parts of it - still deciding on the whole…
Abt_Nihil at 1:43AM, Aug. 19, 2015
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It sounds plausible to me, the way you describe it - except I think it's not just the brain from which these properties emerge, but also the interplay between people. So it's not really a loop to me, and only “emergent” in a not-quite-so-strange way.
KimLuster at 11:05AM, Aug. 19, 2015
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Absolutely!  
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You may be thinking something totally different but to me it kinda fits in with meme-theory.  What is a meme but a symbolic mental pattern that is shared, passed along, edited, by lots of people? They can be thought of a mental viruses: they seem to want to propogate and spread, and just stick around!  Almost like they're alive somehow…
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Even so, the idea of feedback loops is strange.  Anyone who has ever played around with two mirrors, angling them just right where they reflect each in nest frames, seemingly to infinity - that still brings chills to me when I do it.  Like I'm peeking into a hidden reality…
last edited on Aug. 19, 2015 11:06AM
Abt_Nihil at 4:45AM, Aug. 20, 2015
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I'm also fascinated by both the meme-idea and infinite loops/recursion. I just think that minds aren't infinite loops. They are recursive, but finitely so. Physical processes can cause you to have certain mental properties, which in turn can cause physical processes, and so on - but not ad infinitum, at least not practically. Much the same way, I believe that you believe that I believe that you believe memes are fascinating. We can have higher-order beliefs such as these, but not infinitely higher orders. (But perhaps mirrors are this way too, since reflections have to stop at small enough scales, don't they?)
KimLuster at 10:43AM, Aug. 20, 2015
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Yeah,  it does seem there are limits - it may be that true infinite ‘things’ only exists as a mental concepts, or mathematical contructs like Pi or Phi…
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Even the illusory infinite feedback loops like the mirror-trick, or a microphone near a speaker.  I'd imagine the mirror-illusion comes to an end once one of the reflections nears the size of a single photon…  and of course the mic/speaker deal meets its physical limit in the volume capacity of the speaker (speakers can blow - this I know ;))
ozoneocean at 8:00PM, Aug. 20, 2015
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I'd guess the mirror trick ends when the light is too scattered and difuse to make another reflection- So it's like with your your mind loop thing: Things influence each other but they do so imperfectly, leading to errors that build and build till it's just meaningless blur.
 
Abt_Nihil at 2:31AM, Aug. 21, 2015
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Exactly, it's basically like information: Natural boundaries being noise (as Oz said, scattered light) and the limiting properties of the bearer (as Kim said, photons).

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