Two things seem to be front and centre lately on the media circuits, one of which being the HIV/AIDS conference, and the other (in direct contrast) is the release of “Snakes on a Plane.” Both have a viral connotation, whereby HIV is suitably obvious, and the movie has more to do with information disemination.
It’s all very intriguing though – that is, this concept of a viral mechanism of getting information out there. The “Snakes in a Plane” is certainly a good example of this, and in fact, as far as I can tell, most everything reported about the movie is more to do with this aspect, rather than the movie itself. Apparently, due to small initial kerfuffle over the title of the project, it has somehow spawned a massive collective particpation.
So what gives? And how, for that matter, does Snakes on a Plane compare to the $10 Ok Go music video phenomenon (which even my children, only 2 and 4 years old though they be, love), or to the Flying Spaghetti Monster cult (also a big favourite, particularly in the scientific communities).
It’s an interesting query, because maybe these type of tactics are what science communicators need to look at, since it might represent a good trick to put that kink in the 15% scientific literacy figure.
Anyway, bringing us back to the HIV angle. I always thought that the figure “0.7%” was just ripe for this sort of viral marketing. It’s got so much potential as a symbol but as a media feature it is otherwise generally unknown to most people. And in case you’re one of these folks, it’s that percentage of a nation’s GDP that folks feel should be given to foreign aid – foreign aid meaning money to deal with things like the lofty UN Millenium Development Goals, which includes the HIV/AIDS battle for example. This is a Canadian invention, by the way, although embarrasingly, Canada (in 2005) was stuck at about 0.3% and the US at 0.2%. Put another way, this percentile is often a big discussion point at those G8 Summits you keep hearing about.
In any event, I think it’s got so much potential that here it is again, bigger and in one of my favourite fonts (Clarendon):
But back to the “Ask a scienceblogger question, sort of,” which is as follows:
Essentially, as scientific types who tend to analyse, over-analyse, supra-analyse things, and who like to categorize and follow empirical trends, I’m interesting in hearing what you think it is that sparks these viral outbursts of information outreach? This question (and apologies for its convolution) also relates directly to your role as a blogger, where the assumption is that you revel in increased traffic, and are kind of looking for these tricks anyway. I guess, I’m just interested in hearing a scientist’s opinion on this, as oppose to the usual IT expert/academic.
Appendum: On a more specific note, I also curious to hear of ideas about propogating 0.7%. Maybe even put a general challenge out there…