virus: urban legends

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Sat, 15 Mar 1997 02:49:30 -0800 (PST)

On Wed, 5 Mar 1997, Tony Hindle wrote:

> As for mapping the chinese whispers onto two people, Yes I
> can see that The original meme could see more distance with more
> iterations but I think it would be moving towards "a basin of
> attraction". At the basin would be a more stable (=satisfying?)
> meme.
> For the three women talking I think it would end up as a
> mutualy agreed tale that made all three of them feel good. If it
> also compelled them to tell others it would be something we might
> expect to hear often (gossip-with the spin that suits them).
> With us during our exchenges the meme will also move
> towards a basin of attraction, more satisfying to both of us
> because it complements our conceptual tool kit......Women eh!

I've just been reading up on modern folklore in preparation for an urban
legends theme party I'm having tomorrow night. This phenomenon is an
important one in selecting which legends get repeated most, and how their
forms are likely to shift. The truth value of the stories is less
important to their function than other factors, such as the satisfaction
of poetic justice, feelings of righteous indignation, or reinforcement of
social norms and warnings.

By the way, while the three people in that personal anecdote are female, I
don't appreciate the "Women eh", suggesting as it does, without actually
stating it, that this phenomenon (telling the stories we like regardless
of their truth value) is typical of females, or that males never engage in
it. Nuff said.


"It's the truth, even if it never happened." --Ken Kesey