The science of spontaneity

The other day I posted about giving a talk on mashups to people who were new to this concept.  I find out since then that there were lots of other people doing the same thing at nearly the same time.  Then I saw that several editors at high profile publications were publishing stories explaining mashups to nontechnical audiences at about the same time, as well.  

Rex Hammock, Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter gave mashup presentatons and even posted the powerpoint files on their blogs.  Verne Kopytoff of The SF Chronicle and Elinor Mills of CNET posted news analysis pieces on mashups.

There's nothing new about a meme.  In fact, there's nothing all that new about this particular meme.  But what is strange is the angle of the story that is nearly identical in content and in timing.  An effort to humanize Web 2.0 concepts through mashups shot through several vehicles nearly simultaneously.  Why does this happen?  

I've seen some interesting ways of analyzing this kind of thing after it happens.  Tag clouds give a slow-moving perspective of meme movement.  Memeorandom does a nice job of grouping popular topics as they are forming during the day.  Slashdot and Digg both capture common interest and spread it like wildfire (Though now we have which combines Slashdot, Digg and to capture interest).

These are all reflections of spontaneity not occurances of it being expressed.  Rex, Richard, Joshua, Verne and Elinor all probably read many of the same blogs and feeds that I read.  But I am certain that nothing any of us read made us all generate the same idea at the same time.  My presentation was scheduled not coordinated.

I find it bizarre yet not necessarily surprising that people process the same ideas at nearly the same time.  What surprises me is that there isn't more scientific understanding of why this occurs.  Maybe the next leap in search after social and semantic connections is the study of spontaneous order.  If so, then somewhere in the Silicon Valley there are super secret research projects that aim to identify memes before they actually get expressed.

Tags:  meme, mashup, search


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The science of spontaneity