Adventures in Ethics and Science

Scott Eric Kaufman wants to know how fast a meme can sweep the blogosphere. And it’s not just a matter of idle curiousity: his MLA presentation depends on it.

He writes:

What is the speed of meme? People write in general (typically truimphant) terms about how swiftly a single voice can travel from one side of the internet to the other and back again, but how often does that actually happen? Of those instances, how often is it organic?

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.

Go read his post, which has clear instructions for linking and pinging. And please, don’t forget that the future of a graduate student is in your hands:

My fear is that I’ll post this and no one will participate in my experiment. On the one hand, that’ll be educational too, allowing me to talk about top-down vs. bottom-up dynamics, the ineffectiveness of compulsion and coercion on free-range bloggers, &c. On the other, I would rather not tell the august body of the Modern Language Association that bloggers only stop posting about what they had for lunch (fish sticks!) when their cat strikes another (fifth today!) outrageously adorable pose…