Monday, 27 November 2006

The Speed of Meme? Very, Very Fast It should've been just another sentence, one more soldier marching through my twenty-minute presentation on "The New Interdisciplinary." Now it's a bad apple threatening to spoil the entire ... soldier barrel. Metaphors aside, my interests have expanded to accommodate what I created (albeit accidentally) to prove my original point. To wit: Reading through the academic literature on blogging, I detected notes of vintage 1999 Wired. Scholars wrote as if the bubble had never burst, as if the wildest posthuman dreams were being fulfilled in an interpenetrative blogospheric mêlée. Such language reminded me less of scholarship than the transformation of quantum physics into insipid neospiritual pablum à la What the #$*! Do We Know?!. So I decided to include a sentence—a single, solitary sentence—debunking the idea that one lone voice can be heard in the wilderness, that in truth the blogosphere is highly hierarchical, and that the likelihood of that voice being heard depends on cultivating the wilderness in which bloggers scream. Not that lungs don't matter: the more powerful and engaging the writer, the more likely he or she will be to find and retain an audience. Finding that audience, as any blogger knows, is a difficult task. But given effective quality control, an audience could be enticed to follow strains of thought personally and disciplinarily foreign, i.e. outside idiosyncratic and professional interests. [1] As my 500 devout readers know, I'm a dogged (if amateur) empiricist. I cannot simply make a claim: I must do everything I in my power to verify it. I can't put sentence-to-processor without doing my best to establish its validity. Instead of slapping that sentence down the auto-save abyss, I decided to post something. Little did I know, that sentence would blossom into a meme—which, as Scott McLemee reminds us, "appeals to bloggers because it has 'me' in it, twice." Not just any meme, mind you, but one I barely have the time, energy, or proper equipment and training to track. It may have even crashed my campus network. It could be a coincidence (it is) that it went down for half an hour (three, actually) while I ran my experiment, but I like to think (on occasion, but always poorly) that the awesome computing power (a Leading Edge Model D86, duct tape, ABC Laffy Taffy) behind my little science fair project (1st Place: Jimmy's Amazing! Volcano) brought the (bring it on!), brought the (oh, it's been brought)—Can you excuse me a minute? [2] Where was I? Right, that sentence blossomed into a meme I'm almost unqualified to track. People may think, "Why then did you propose it? Just to get a little attention?" No. I thought it'd scuttle the margins of the academic blogosphere, crawl whimpering under the couch and expire. Why? Because of its lame content: If you're interested in academic blogging and presentations at the MLA, check this box. Enthralling, ain't it? Turns out it is. Now, if I only knew what to make of it ... [1] Speaking of the latter...

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