Wednesday, November 29

Why I am knot participating

Seriously, does anyone really think this is going to give anyone any valid information? Enough to warrant a paper? A peer-reviewed paper? With like meaningful statistics and everything?

"Most memes, I'd wager, are only superficially organic: beginning small, they acquire minor prominence among low-traffic blogs before being picked up by a high-traffic one, from which many more low-traffic blogs snatch them. Contra blog-triumphal models of memetic bootstrapping, I believe most memes are—to borrow a term from Daniel Dennett's rebuttal of punctuated equilibrium—"skyhooked" into prominence by high-traffic blogs. "

Don't you just love the social science jargon?

he wants us to disseminate this totally artificial "meme" so he can say something about organic ones? As I just said a couple days ago. Memes are not equivalent to blogging writing prompts that the blogger chooses to use or ignore. The concept of meme comes from the notion of ideas as entities that spread like viruses. Who really has the ability to choose whether or not to become infected with a virus? What makes the whole notion of meme interesting is the lack of meta-knowledge of its spreading. Blog prompts that someone chooses to participate in or are not really memes, but more like fashion trends.

Also, the researcher wistfully regrets not tracking two "memes" in which he participated (or started? not sure.) Why didn't he? Because the very nature of the viral spreading of ideas is that you do not know in advance which ones will spread and which won't.

I read a lot of blogs, too many perhaps. Mostly knitting blogs but not exclusively. And get this, I never heard of those two memes. That supports my position that the spread of this artificial one has no useful information to say about real viral spread of ideas.

Ironically enough, the path upon which I heard of this artificial meme was through someone who profuses a strong dislike to the canned writing prompts that the knit blogging community calls memes. While not immune to actual memes (imo) she has been mostly immune to these artificial ones. And yet she is participating in this one. But get this: she did not follow the rules and actually talk about the project on her blog, she just links to it vaguely. An actual carrier? (But a carrier who chooses to be one, so that's a limitation in the analogy.) That's sorta interesting. But this just proves the artificiality of this "meme" since in real life she would have been the last person to have participated in any such blog writing prompt. So in real life, I possibly never would have heard about this "meme." So for the sake of science, I choose to not participate. No technorati pinging from me.

so... am I participating or not?

Where is Eugene Miya when you need him?

3 comments:

Melinda said...

I am participating, partly out of kindred spirit for an English grad student. I ran across the project the same place you did, and saw the irony. And, yes, this isn't going to model what happens with "real" memes because of the begging aspect.

But...it seems to me that it will track how interest in a project spreads across the blogosphere. People choose the projects they participate in based on personal interest, where they read about it, and - who knows - maybe their lack of anything else to say. So what he's really going to be mesauring here is how fast bloggers will post to participate in his project. It's not fundamentally different from the decisions people make about whether to post "100 things about me" or "hit shuffle on your iPod" or any of those things.

And, I would say that you're meta-participating :) How postmodern of you.

Dorothy said...

Melinda, actually I found it on your blog; was surprised to see you list Norma as the source. So I went to her blog skimmed her post over and over to try to see where she mentioned it. Because of my disdain for following links with generic information-free tags, I would not have followed hers myself.

Yup, he is measuring the spread of these blog-prompt sorts of things, spread consciously. But this is more like meta-blog-prompt so will not spread the same way.

My guess is the folks at technorati have lots of better data from which they draw lots more interesting conclusions. I am not sure if Richard Dawkins is stamping his foot or laughing with glee about how his neologism has evolved (the evolution of the memes themselves being an important characteristic of them).

post-modern, or an important part of the study? after all, data on dead-ends is just as important as data on the spread of infections. However, for this to be a real dead-end, he can't find it. But, as you say, since I did talk about it, is this really a dead end?

Erika said...

I think the aspect of memes that he was studying wasn't why they spread, but the spreading itself.

Like those researchers who dropped bucketsful of red dust all over the city, to study where the air currents would deposit the dust, thereby gaining some sort of information about how an airborne disease would be spread, in case of biological attack. In other words, totally artificial, but with interesting results nevertheless.

My hope would be that some clever person could map out all the Technorati pings, and create a networked map of the meme's spread. Or failing that, that the project proved high-profile enough that some clever person would think to inject a fake meme into the blogosphere in order to follow its spread.

Or I may have just totally misread/misunderstood his original post. I have to confess, I too had not heard of his earlier meme-ish experiences. And the whole thing struck me as sort of fishy, in a "Hey, I know how I can get famous!" sort of way. But it struck me at a weak moment, so I posted.