Re: virus: New Ideas

J. Houston Williams (
Thu, 22 May 1997 22:14:00 -0400

At 11:25 PM 5/22/97 +0100, you wrote:
>People! Remember those crap posts I sent, one half-finished and the second
>apologising for the first? Here's the third...

David! Man oh man did my eyes bug out. I'll have to print this mother and
go over it a little more slowly. Reading off the CRT is hard on the ol'
optic nerve.

I think I see where you are getting, to some extent. Although you discuss
it (entertainingly) in the context of a speaker in a pub, I've seen similar
conclusions about the manufacture of knowledge in folklore theory (esp.
Urban Myth theory), pedagogy, creativity studies, and media studies. The
basic underlying concepts as I've seen them defined are:

1) Knowledge follows a circular path, but doesn't often come out the same.
If I had a dollar for every time Pop told me a story I told him a day
before, I'd have half my student loans paid off.

2) Knowledge -- especially created knowledge like Art, Literature, and
Philosophy -- does not occur in a vacuum. One can not be creative if one
has no contact with anyone else. "If a novelist writes a book in a forest
and there's no one there to read it, will he recieve any royalties?" Or,
perhaps more accurately, has he actually used language? Has he "written?"

3) For knowledge to spread, it must reach a receptive audience. In your pub
analogy, Sound enters the mic -- the receiver -- and is repeated. Without
the voice, there is no sound. Without the mic, there is no communication
(and hence the sound stops). The two together create a loop in which sound
is indefinately replicated. (Albiet with some distortion.)

Point #3 contains the purpose for my "faith as positive value" argument.
IE, we accept the general, nebulous definition of "faith" so that we can
positively affect the ideas of those who claim to have "faith." By being
"on the same side," we can lead them to our viewpoint -- a much more
effective, gentle, and humane position than scaring the crap out of someone
by spouting the exact opposite of what you believe in frightening,
threatening terms.

This serves as a good argument for mostly-adapting to your target
audience's vocabulary. If you alienate them, you've done the same thing as
shut off the mic. There's no audience, so there can be no repetition. Or,
the audience you have is the audience that already agrees with you, so
there really isn't any worthwhile spread of the meme you generate, and it
eventually becomes as useful as noise.

Now, you tell me: am I reading you correctly? Or am I just imposing my
views on your structure, and you don't see what you've said leading to
something like that at all? (Sometimes happens with me.)

-- john

John Williams
Various Artists: Raising the Tide of Mediocrity for Two Years