How Hominids Manage Tricky Social Relations: The Theory of Mind and Mindreading Games

(An extract of my book Narrative Madness, edited by Katie Fox, which you can get at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon.)

The Machiavellian Prince of Primates

Many other species are social as well, so why didn’t they develop sophisticated systems of symbolic communication? Primate societies developed language because of the exaggerated complexity of our manipulative social interactions. The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences says that “primate social relationships have been characterized as manipulative and sometimes deceptive at sophisticated levels” (Wilson and Kiel). Writes Kerstin Dautenhahn, biologist and professor of computer science, paraphrasing Frans de Waal, “Identifying friends and allies, predicting behavior of others, knowing how to form alliances, manipulating group members, making war, love and peace, are important ingredients of primate politics.” A hominid skilled at manipulation would be better suited than its more submissive counterparts to win resources, sex and power.

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Metamucil: Making Meta-Shit Happen

If metafiction is fiction about fiction and metapainting is painting about painting, “Metamucil” must be mucil about mucil, right? But what is mucil?

(Photo borrowed from the hysterical website de-motivational.com.)

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Meta-YouTube: “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”

A profound meditation on the community YouTube creates, this video, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube,” by Michael Wesch is thoroughly meta from beginning to end (55 minutes, so make some popcorn) and profoundly moving (I am still all choked up and puffy-eyed) because it is about the revolution that is happening as “real” people share “real” content with a growing, global (and very “real”) community (hello world!).

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