In the news cycle, memes spread more like a heartbeat than a virus
Nieman Journalism Lab:
"The New York Times reports today: “For the most part, the traditional news outlets lead and the blogs follow, typically by 2.5 hours, according to a new computer analysis of news articles and commentary on the Web during the last three months of the 2008 presidential campaign.” By that measure, I’m past due in responding, but here’s why the Times has it wrong.
The study in question demonstrates a fascinating technique, borrowed from genetics research, for tracking memes in media coverage, and produces some surprising results that I’ll get to below. But part of the paper is based on a flawed methodology that totally discredits the findings highlighted by the Times. Here’s the illustration of that two-and-a-half-hour gap between peak coverage of memes — in this case, phrases from the 2008 presidential election — in the mainstream media and on blogs:. . .
From that perspective, the paper has quite a bit to add. First, it’s fascinating that memes in political reporting can be tracked with methods drawn from bioinformatics and genetic sequence analysis. As Bill Wasik explains in his new book on viral culture, And Then There’s This, the term meme was coined by the British biologist Richard Dawkins, who wrote in The Selfish Gene:
I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about it its primeval soup…The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like gene. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
In the news cycle, nemes spread more like a heartbeat than a virus
The point is that memes move through cognitive space. Genes move in physical space. News stories that spread have an emotional component. A neme is a coined word to include the meme, the embodied information in a gene and the emotion we can call a lumene.