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.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot, and writing some, about memes. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m a bit discomforted by the way that many writers seem to accept memes as a fact, rather than as a useful analogy. This worries me. When analogies get taken too literally they tend to get pushed too far at which point they fall apart. This can appear to discredit or devalue the usefulness of the entire analogy. I don’t want that to happen with the “meme” analogy I think it’s too potentially useful to people who care about communication.
Therefore, I want to consider for a minute the definition of “meme”…
I am back home again, safe in Colorado, after outrunning hurricane Frances. I spent Thursday and part of Friday in Orlando, FL with my sister and her family, after spending a couple of days at the Poynter Institute working on a project. It was quite interesting to see gas station after gas station totally out of gas! Well, Frances has been downgraded, so hopefully the winds won’t be so severe, although the flooding is likely to be. Keep your fingers crossed for the people of Florida.
Anyway, now that I’m back I’m dealing with my own personal flood: my normal backlog of information overload. I’ve been contemplating how I might deal more effectively with information overload, especially since my to-do list for this weblog always seems to be running a month behind. Well, an Aug. 16 article by John Udell, Information routing, offers some very useful points to consider on this front…
Earlier this year, blogger Nova Spivack undertook a very cool, original, and potentially useful project: his blog meme propagation experiment. Basically, this effort sought to create a dataset that would show how ideas and themes of discussion (“memes”) can spread among weblogs.
Specifically, the experiment allowed each instance of the meme (relevant blog posting) to be tracked by time and location. It also tracked how each instance of the meme was vectored (from whom it was discovered).
That experiment is now closed, after cycling through four variations. (So don’t bother trying to participate by adding links at this point.) However, I’m eagerly awaiting more posts from Spivack regarding the results.
I’d heard about this experiment during the spring, but it didn’t really ignite my interest until I read Spivack’s July 8 posting, A Physics of Ideas: Measuring The Physical Properties of Memes. Here are a few excerpts I’d like to share…
I’ve been learning more about tools and processes that support brainstorming and creativity. Here are a few articles that recently caught my attention:
TOP OF THE LIST: How to run a brainstorming meeting, by Scott Berkun, UIweb. Brainstorming doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Ultimately, the point is to affect your personal or group decisions and actions. Berkun writes, “The most important thing about a brainstorming session is what happens after it ends. No matter how poorly you run a brainstorming meeting, some decent ideas will surface. But depending on what happens after the session, those ideas may or may not impact anything.”
Read the rest of the list…
Here’s a slightly focused grab bag of interesting articles that have caught my attention as I explore the field of knowledge management.
Top of the list: June 25, Das E-Business Weblog, Knowledge Management does not exist. Personal Knowledge Management does, by Martin Roell. He writes, “‘Knowledge’ is something personal and only something personal. Once you make it explicit, it’s no longer knowledge: It’s information. We can manage information well, we can build fancy databases and label them ‘Knowledge Management Systems’ but they remain Information Management Systems. And information by itself is completely meaningless.”
Read the rest of the list…
Despite the popularity of the buzzword knowledge management, there’s actually a fair amount of debate in the KM community over whether it’s actually possible to manage “knowledge.” In a way, this debate reminds me of Terry Jones‘ brilliant observation about the War on Terror, “How do you wage war on an abstract noun?”
In order to decide whether knowledge can be managed, you must understand what knowledge is…
Given the staggering number and diversity of human minds that have been at work throughout the history of this planet, at this point there may be no such thing as a truly original thought. It’s all been “thunk” before, as someone recently said to me. The ideas already exist we’re just moving them around, pretending they’re new and occasionally exciting.
That’s one way to view the potential output of the human mind but I think it’s a pretty “narrow minded” approach (yes, pun intended).
It seems to me that there may be infinite possibilities for creative thinking (not mere cleverness, but truly creating new ideas) because, in my opinion, context creates meaning.
This is why I wish content management and knowledge management tools could be used like a tarot deck. Let me explain, I know that sounds weird…
(NOTE: My earlier article on Arranging Ideas was far more popular than I expected. Even better, the weblogs eLearningPost, Knowledge-at-Work, Knowledge Jolt with Jack, elearnspace, Small Business Blogging, and Brewed Fresh Daily have expanded upon it with their own thoughts and context. So forgive me for waxing philosophical once again, but I suspect I may be onto something…)
Although I haven’t said so flat-out before, many of the tools and services I’ve been playing with, exploring, and seriously using lately (wikis, Furl, Bloglines, e-learning tools, content management tools even blogging software and Gmail, to some extent) all have a common thread: what many people today call knowledge management.
However, I personally loathe the buzzword “knowledge management” because it has become hopelessly corrupted, convoluted, and devalued by companies hawking huge expensive systems or consulting services that border on organizational voodoo.
In my book, knowledge management boils down to arranging ideas. In other words, I prefer to view this as a real human process, not a technological or abstract one…
(NOTE: Read my July 27 followup to this article, which includes links to many articles in other weblogs commenting on this one.)
So far, I’ve more or less avoided investigating Google’s new Gmail service. I just have too much on my plate, and an existing backlog of cool tools like WikidPad I really want to play with.
However, I just read an intriguing Boxes and Arrows article that’s moved Gmail up on my mess-around-with-it priority list. See: The Information Architecture of Email, by Dan Brown.
Brown observes, “Gmail revealed to me my e-mail behavior something I hadn’t previously given much thought. By making certain things easier (and others more difficult), Gmail showed me how ‘typical’ e-mail applications weren’t necessarily designed according to how I used them.”
That thought resonates very strongly with me. I’ve forever been wrestling with my e-mail software, and it’s wearing on me. I’m pretty sure the e-mail software has been winning…