Communication is Viral

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Information about Communication is Viral

Published on September 10, 2007

Author: lrizoli



An exploration of many metaphors applied to the movement of ideas, the idea as the infallible word of a god, as a weapon, as a space, and recently, the idea as a biological force, how they have affected and been affected by history and technology.

From the Un-Distinguished Lecture Series ( The talk was given Jan. 19, 2007.

communication is viral Lucas Rizoli Un-Distinguished Lecture Series 2007-01-19

metaphors of communication

describing the movement of ideas

communication on a large scale

pre-enlightenment, western world

illiterate majority

centralized power

single source


rise of empires

economic powers


onset of modernity

radical changes in thought

large literate population

decentralized powers

religion losing grip on thought




infrastructure of information



war-minded metaphors

“aiming for”

“bombarded with”

“target audience”

cold war

awareness of information itself

computation and globalization

world through and of information

the past thirty years

herpes simplex

communicable disease

spread through physical contact



self-propagating infection

spread through contact



parasitic information

maintains itself

affects its host

propagates itself

maintains itself affects its host propagates itself

chuck norris facts

the chief export of chuck norris is pain

chuck norris does not go hunting

the word hunting implies a chance of failure

chuck norris goes killing

spread from irc to washington post

chuck norris facts are viral

internet meme

maintains itself affects its host propagates itself

large-scale communication is viral

major changes in thought



physiological characteristics

cultural characteristics


memes as viruses

informational epidemiology


internet memes

change in terminology

may follow change in military thinking



“get the message out there”


subversive attachment

viral advertising

burger king

spread through word-of-mouth

fifteen to twenty million visitors

exploited social contact

maintains itself affects its host propagates itself

not limited to advertising



fake bottom-up political movements

alexis de tocqueville institution

evangelical christianity

jehovah’s witnesses

not necessarily negative

spread of written language

maintains itself affects its host propagates itself

is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?

what’s the difference?

vectors of infection

communication is viral

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