Meme Tracking: Why and How

What is the trajectory of an idea ? Is it possible to map the spread of a meme across the internet or through society or the media? More importantly, why would anyone be interested in these things? What value might such questions yield?

Earlier I wrote about Nova Spivack’s meme propagation experiment – which is intriguing although I’m not quite sure what its results truly indicate. On Aug. 31, Michael Feldstein took this concept further, with an eye toward practicality – something I always appreciate. See his series Tracking Memes in the Wild (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) Well worth reading.

2 thoughts on Meme Tracking: Why and How

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  1. advertisers and influence pedlers value the answer to this sort of question. Say (for example) you want george bush to win the election. first you find a trajectory that leads to your target population of democrats. you find that a certain reporter will be heard by 60% of all democrats. you find a reliable way to expose the reporter to your idea (meme). you now have a trajectory you can use on a selected population. presumably you would then find a meme to discourage these people from voting such as “nothing we do will stop terrorism” or maybe “bush is a man of conviction”. I recomend a quick sample test of the population for posible innoculation or resistance. democrats may not value conviction and may find it antithical to democracy. finally after testing out several trajectories with and calculating typical dispersal times to maximum propicgation you can time the whole thing so the idea peaks during the election.

  2. p.s. I think the clever way to track memes in the wild is to create fake personas on aolIM or ICQ. basically you can use the “man in the middle attack” so anything said by chatter prson A is sent by you to chat person B. Basically you just relay the conversations from A to B and vice versa. you stay in the middle listening to the conversation and let a program do the relaying. peridically add a phrase to test for the meme such as “I like hats” and attribute it to person A or B without their knowledge. then just monitor for key sentences or agreement, collect the responses and you’ve tracked a meme. I haven’t actually done this of course, and it might be illegal or unethical. but that hasn’t stopped people and government agencies from doing things in the past, so it’s probably happening.