Re: virus: The One or the Many? (was: META)

Marie Foster (
Thu, 16 Oct 1997 11:59:46 -0700

Tim Rhodes wrote:
> On Tue, 14 Oct 1997, Tadeusz Niwinski wrote:
> > Reed asked a very important question if we were going anywhere in
> > particular. There is no clear agenda, I think. Should there be?
> If we wanted to make memetics into a science [1], one that could prove
> itself through the predictive powers of its theories, which is a better
> approach: studying the effects of memes on the individual or on large
> groups.
> I had thought that understanding the effects on individuals would lead to
> understanding larger groups, but now I wonder. As someone said (Robin
> maybe?), "Each person leaving a theater is a free agent, but the movements
> of the crowd are statisticly predictable." So now I don't know. Which
> approach do you think would yield the greatest results?
> -Prof. Tim
> [1] an assumption for the sake of argument.

Excellent. This is part of the issue I was trying to come to grips with
before I felt really comfortable here. So I guess I will reveal the
behavior that I had been thinking about.

It is streaking...

OK... OK once the howling ends I think now you will realize why I was
reluctant to admit it. But I do have a reason.

I believe that this "fad" started at my private liberal arts college
during my first year or two. (I assume this because [1] others believe
it and have written articles about its beginning and [2] because my
(admittedly) limited search for references to the phenomena begin around
that time.) At Whitworth it started as a private dare between two guys
from Westminster Hall. It was done at night and in secret. However, as
other dorm guys found out about it, they started to participate until
there were several running from their dorm behind my dorm (no lights)
and up to the bell tower and back the same route. It ended abruptly
when someone spilled the beans to a girlfriend and we hatched a plan to
sit in our cars and hit the lights as they ran by. Once that happened
the school found out, the paper found out etc.

FIRST... I am not interested in streaking, pictures of streakers etc. I
am interested in how the behavior changed from a *risk* meme to a
*exhibitionist* meme. And how it spread. The last reference my most
recent search yielded a streaking event in Australia. (And yes, I do
understand that despite the *covert* start, these guys probably had some
exhibitionist tendencies.)

I would ask the list to examine my thinking here. I am still trying to
wrap my brain around *meme* as an object. In my first post I was trying
to decide if it would be better to study some kind of behavior that
*matters* as opposed to studying something so inconsequential.

I HATE JUNK SCIENCE. I see too many people try to study complex things
without controls or elimination of variables. It just seemed to me that
how this fad developed and persists in our culture might be
interesting. I think that the answer to me to Tim's question is to keep
the number of individuals in the group small and homogeneous as
possible. At the same time the thing to be studied must move and change
in some way(s) and have enough significance that its growth and
development gets documented independent of the person doing the study.

Or am I way off base here.... (still a bit *red* in the face)