Adaption seems to be an important survival technique for both virus and meme. The secret lies in making changes that don't alter the main genetic/memetic vector, but allow for greater fecundity--a trade-off between dissemination and mimesis. The amazing ability of virii to mutate is causes great difficulty in coming up with a cure for AIDS; although one strain may be eliminated, another equally virulent one may shrug off the treatment. Hundreds of different strains of virii that cause the common cold exist.
Similarly, memes change with time. Neologisms within a language are an example, as is the introduction of Mass in the vernacular within the Catholic Church. The failure to adapt can result in a meme dying out--although Romance languages are in common use today, who speaks classical Latin any more?
This is the strength Bahktin sees in the novel as genre--its youth and predisposition to mutate and change. The ability to change has made it the dominant literary genre since the 19th century. It remains to be seen if hypertext's natural ability to mutate will allow it to displace printed text in the same way that, as Plato foresaw, the written word displaced speech.
|Inf(l)ections by Steve Cook|