There's a lot about fake news and viral memes lately. That is exciting over here, because it's been a central theme at Network Address forever.
But wait...as I search the interwebs for a good image to go with this post, I am hit with an opportune eureka moment.
Viruses, memetic infection, etc., I'm looking for a picture of a kid getting vaccinated, or just jabbed with a needle. I knew I would have to contend with tempting distractions from both pro- and anti- vaccination data-bowels (just came up w that one, aka shit-spewing websites). And so, just one, I click on this chart which lists the characteristics of folks who do not vaccinate their kids. And, despite what you would think (unless everyone already knows this), those people tend to be wealthy and educated. I only point this out because it seems counter-intuitive that educated people would do something kinda stupid, like neglect the benefits of lifesaving medical treatment in lieu of the statistically benign chance of getting a totally pathologically-unknown condition of autism.
Anyway, the point is that the whole vaccines-thing is a meme, for sure, and memes are powerful, and they can even kill you. (Dan Dennett so eloquently points out in his talk about Dangerous Memes.) This meme has been spreading among a particular segment of the population. What is it that makes one person susceptible to one meme? How did this thing become a thing? Turns out there are some things happening like this. I want to know about how anti-vaccines became a thing, but in the meantime, we have this --
Apr 2017, phys.org
The results don't sound as interesting as the title, but I guess we should be happy nonetheless that these experiments are being done in a lab setting, instead of just observing any available social media data...
And here we have a good look at the effects of a viral campaign, what makes them work or not work; they're looking at the ALS ice bucket challenge, you remember that I'm sure --
Feb 2017, phys.org
This is just a clip, there's a better explanation in the article:
"Just as a flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, so a rapid social consensus spike reaches an equally rapid saturation point.
"Once the social tipping point of a campaign has passed, momentum can decay quickly and the purpose can get diluted. Once the ALS campaign had reached peak virality, many people were just pouring cold water over their heads without necessarily referencing the charity."
-Dr Sander van der Linden, from Cambridge's Department of Psychology
image source: link