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

Marie Foster (
Sat, 18 Oct 1997 13:22:32 -0700

Tim Rhodes wrote:
> On Thu, 16 Oct 1997, Marie Foster wrote:
> > 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.
> This seems like one good approach. I wonder, what do we use as varibles?
> How would you go about quantifying, say, degree of infection? Or would it
> be best for now to stick to digital behavoirs (she either streaks or she
> doesn't)?
> -Prof. Tim

Hmmmm... I am thinking with my fingers here. First of all thanks for
taking my suggestion seriously. I can not always explain why my mind
makes certain connections. But I have enough life experience to feel
that my instincts are predicated on a logical process even if I have not
reduced it mathematically.

Someone else talked about the difference between studying individuals
and groups. At a certain time and place two people conspired to see if
they could get away with something that is normally considered taboo in
our society at the time. For some reason it became known to other(s)
who were also taken with the idea. The group continued the behavior
until it went public. Then they stopped. During this period of time
(before it went public) someone coined the word streak to describe the

The press events are documented. Lots of people read about the event.
Some people who read about it either streaked or did not streak. Each
discrete event that used this term and was reported spread the word and
over a period of time the connotation of the word got changed from what
it was between the original idea to what it is now. "Running naked in

Note that there is no purpose attached to the definition. Lady Godiva
did what she did as a protest I believe. Other examples are....? I do
not consider the objection that once we all streaked to be anything more
than humor which I accept, after all it is funny. (Another possible
paper on why it is funny???)

I have done a search on the Web for this term. I have tried to figure
out how I could find all references to it. I would just like to plot
the number of references over time and place. I think that starting
with the readers guide to periodicals would be a good place to start.
>From there one could obtain the local press reports that led to the
articles etc.

Such a study would obviate the need to even interview any streakers...
Or at least I think so.

And finally, who knows what might be learned from such a study?
Perhaps nothing. Perhaps it would lead to some insights. The
probability is???

If I pursue this it will have to be beyond my retirement as I just do
not have the desire (or the ability) to devote the hours it would take
to do it. And when you think about it, the time needed to study
something so mundane and stupid, compared to any study of the big really
important stuff like what ideas lead someone to murder their child...
Do you see what I mean? The behavior itself limits the variables.
Perhaps there is something even smaller and stupider (sp?) that would be
more amenable to meeting these requirements.

Too tired presently, not even sure I answered the question...