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I'm a Virus, He's a Virus, She's a Virus! Wouldn't you like to be a Virus Too?

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January 24, 2013 By: Bob Sprankle

Jan 23

Written by:
1/23/2013 6:41 PM  RssIcon

(note: If you're not making a connection with my above title, then you were probably born after the 70's and don't have a "jaunty" little tune playing in your head right now. If you would like to check out its cultural reference, then click HERE. Fair warning: it will never leave your brain. Never.)

Please forgive me as I take great pleasure (albiet, scientific fascination) in the images below:

Image 1-15-13 at 11.30 AM

Image 1-15-13 at 11.29 AM

The first image comes by way of https://flunearyou.org/. The second image is from Good-Ol'-Google's http://www.google.org/flutrends/. Why do I take pleasure in these images? Because they're so FREAKIN' COOL! We have the ability to track (almost in real time) just how the flu is making its way across the country and the world:

Image 1-15-13 at 11.37 AM
(also from http://www.google.org/flutrends/)

Now, I know Flus are caused by Viruses, and Viruses do other things than spread the Flu, but I am fixated on the FLU at present because my poor daughter is suffering from it, miserable in her bed upstairs, as I write this. (Shhh! She's finally asleep... I'll be waking her in an hour to get her to the doctors).

I could show these maps to my little Les Misérable upstairs, and say, "See? You're not the only one suffering!!" but I suspect it would have little comfort. In fact, it might freak her out a bit, because when you see all that RED, it does feel a bit hopeless, doesn't it?

Anyway. I got FLU on my mind. And VIRUSES, and in between bringing her juice, tissues, warm compresses, and movies and magazines, I need to get a post done. Look: I can still be a "good" dad and take care of my daughter's suffering, while looking at the above maps with wonder and glee, so back off, okay!

For the benefit of my daughter's suffering, and for the benefit of the argument of this piece, let's just call this whole thing VIRUSES. We as humans are great at spreading them: sneezing and coughing all over each other and everyday things we touch. We tend to think of Viruses as BAD.

But we could think of Viruses as a GOOD thing as well. Laurie Anderson and William S. Burroughs did. I've never read Burroughs, but quite like the Anderson song. I also like the term that Richard Dawkins came up with: "Memetics," from his book, The Selfish Gene (note to self: must read book, not just Wikipedia page), which is the theory that, like an evolutionary model, the transfer of "cultural knowledge" is brought about in the same way as Viruses transfer.

We can see this in our daily lives, and if anyone knows of, say, a Google map that tracks the transfer of ideas or memes, please let me know about it. I haven't found any yet, and one reason is, I believe it's more difficult to capture the movement of ideas than it is to capture the data on Viruses. I heartily believe we have rudimentary tools that have already tracked ideas to some degree (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc), but it would be lovely to see actual "Pin Points" on a map, collecting in real-time, as we see in the first map above. It would be even lovelier to be able to see the "WEB" of where that idea came from, where it is going, how strong or fast its movement is, and what kind of influence it has on the world. (A "meme map," if you will.)

Right now, I am infecting you with a Virus. I'm sure you've probably thought about some of the ideas that I just put forth, but if you haven't, then I've "infected" you with them, or made the "strain" of this particular idea/meme stronger... or, I guess, perhaps, possibly weaker within you. But here is something, that if you haven't seen it, will undoubtedly move you, infect you, change you. Watch the following video:



Now, I recently had the good fortune of working with my daughter's Guidance Counselors in setting up their website. In truth, I did very little; they did all the heavy lifting, and even taught me a bunch of stuff about Weebly (which is where they created their site). I think my only real contribution is that I shared the above video with them, and they've included the following form on their sites, stating:
"Don't have time to stop by guidance? Do you find it easier to communicate through writing? Is there something you want to let me know? Send me an email."
Wow. So very, very cool.

Now, do I take credit for this? Certainly not. I was just being a good virus. Someone sent me the link to the video above, I shared it with them, and they (they're the HEROES!) decided to "become infected" and add it to their site. (I've asked that they keep data on how many referrals come in via the website, compared to the ones that come in as "walk-ins" as I think it would be really interesting data to look at. What a geek I am!).

This is what we do, have always done: we humans, infect each other with IDEAS. Sometimes good ideas, sometimes bad. I'll bet if we asked the teacher, Ms. Kornowskis, in the video if this was entirely her OWN idea, she would probably point to some other, outside influences that made her create this amazing (and quite frankly, simple) tool to help students.

I like being a "connector;" a virus carrier (of the good kind of viruses). I'll bet you do too, that's why you've stuck with this article for so long, and why you're going to Tweet it out when you're finished with it.

Ideas and solutions used to take a long time to travel the world. Now, it can take a nanosecond.

So, as you grab for that 4,000th tissue, and drink down your juice and take your medicine, then hear me when I say, "I'm sorry you also have the flu/virus."

But aren't viruses cool?!?

I look forward to our next infection.

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