Inside the mind of a Britney Spears searcher

I don't get it; I have difficult even spelling Britney Spears let alone recalling any of her songs, but somehow that doesn't seem to prevent her name being a recurring search topic across 70% of monitored countries in the Google Zeitgeist.

But the Zeitgeist analysis is peanuts to what Nova Spivack wants to achieve. In his Physics of Ideas (yes another changethis manifesto; some very good reading matter here folks), Spivak proposes to examine memes (and their movement and velocity) in the same way as we analyse particles. He believes a deeper analysis of web and RSS content will reveal how "big ideas" are transmitted, stored and how they change in importance. Very interesting, but how could that information be used? Spivak suggests that it may be possible to correlate meme size and velocity with other sources of information such as stock price or demographics to help with stock purchases, market research, electioneering, even terrorist activity.

It's interesting to think about that "public" data being correlated with "private" data like regional product sales or telephone calls or house prices or weather patterns. Clearly a firm that could offer this kind of data and (more importantly) analysis is in a position to charge more than say Google charges today for targetted advertising. Taking this technology to its logical conclusion, it may be possible to track a meme back to it's origin (person, place or technology). Knowing the origin makes it possible to identify and either punish or reward the people or the mechanisms that are the sources of certain kinds of meme.

So continuing on the slightly 1984-ish theme of my entries for today, this means that the folks who play their parts in framing or starting or a trend - the little firestarters - those folks can look forward to micro-payments for pushing brands or propoganda, while the real data mines and miners (Google and such) can be assured of an even larger role in tomorrow's society.

Comments:

Sounds like the plot in, Michael Flynn's book, In the Country of the Blind. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/076534498X/ref=pd_sim_b_4/104-8309308-4954315?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance

Posted by Geoffrey Carman on November 26, 2004 at 03:13 AM PST #

I haven't read it, but Flynn's fictional science of cliology sounds fascinating, especially the fact that it is rooted in Babbage's device. I have read Isaac Asimov's Foundation series which is in part based on a science of prediction called "psychohistory"; this concept is discussed in an article http://www.prime-radiant.com/Psychohistory.html which has several other references, including one to cliology. I don't believe in prediction, but I do believe in making informed guesses, and unfortunately that people can be led and manipulated; the effectivness of political propoganda, framing and advertising shows this. I'm currently reading The Wisdom of Crowds which highlights how groups can cooperate, and how independent thinkers can see through the emperor's new clothes. I can't exactly recommend it yet, I'll comment on it some more when I'm finished.

Posted by Colm Smyth on November 29, 2004 at 08:11 PM PST #

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