Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Travels of the meme

Memes circulate, and I never think much about their moments of emergence or how they make their way through networks. But when I saw that Steve Krause had just taken up the "last word" meme and had attributed it to jill/txt, I just had to take a look on technorati to see how that had happened. I felt pretty sure that Debbie had invented the meme on Monday, so it was shocking to find it attributed to someone else (and by a fellow rhet/comp blogger) just two days later.

Here's what I discovered:

It's all because of Nels.

Nels, I submit, is what Malcolm Gladwell calls a "connector":

What makes someone a Connector? The first--and most obvious--criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don't think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people.

Gladwell sees Connectors as an important network link for the effecting of social contagion (like memes). (See also Peter Morville's analysis and charts that illustrate the importance of connectors in social networks.)

And why do I say Nels is the Connector? (Or, at the very least, one important Connector.) Take a look at his blogroll, would you. Not only is it long, but it includes a healthy mix of pseudononymous and nonpseudononymous blogs. His blogging serves as an important transfer point between these sometimes separate blogospheres.

Plus, in following the movement of this meme on technorati, I found this significant trace, posted at 10:02 pm on Monday, May 1:

Nels looked up the last word from his dissertation, so I did, too.

And so it happened. After that, the attribution tended to continue to remove itself further from the original source.

So, Debbie, not only did you create a blog entry with a record number of comments, but you also created a wildly proliferating meme. Blogos rocks.


dhawhee said...

woo hoo!
thanks for the genealogy, D. (and for the blog props. am honored.)

Nels said...

Wow, I feel so powerful.

Though I have to admit that the line "It's all because of Nels" jumped out before I read the entry, and my stomach dropped. What did I do now?!? :)

Donna said...

Sorry to have brought on that sinking feeling, Nels! But it's all good. You *are* the Connector.