CYBERHYPE II - Brain Plagues
From Aaron Lynch’s Thought Contagion to Seth Godin’s Idea Virus, the proliferation of interest in media spin-cycles, viral marketing, corporate memetics and cultural contagions suggests that the infective model has itself become a craze.
From Aaron Lynch’s Thought Contagion to Seth Godin’s (see article) Idea Virus, the proliferation of interest in media spin-cycles, viral marketing, corporate memetics and cultural contagions suggests that – in the latest example of non-linear hype dynamics – the infective model has itself become a craze. Ccru sent its Cyberhype correspondent Synthia Drummond (who seems much recovered from her encounter with Schwartzean ‘hype-gnosis’) to investigate the phenomenon.
Searching for a preliminary definition of cyberhype crazes, Synthia arranged an interview with the improbably named Dr. Ernst P. Demic, Director of Brain Plague Simulation at London’s prestigious Centre of Cultural Epidemiology, which has just received a capital injection of Eu500 million to complete its mapping of the Inhuman Memome.
Dr. Demic argues that in the age of unchained telecommerce, which he equates with anomalous arrivals out of the virtual, crazes are spreading catastrophically. He cryptically describes crazes or runaway polymedia infections as biomimetic syndromes, functioning as geostrategic operators. They exhibit an increasing ‘contingency of instantiation’ (whether books, films, games, or ‘trading cards’) and involve an ineradicable element of chance, which makes them impossible to predict. These outbreaks work at various scales, from that of semiotic microparticles (the ‘e-’ prefix, ‘@’, the suffix ‘.com’) to that of the new economy as a whole. According to Demic, “in the early nineties the Web was dismissed as a craze; in the late nineties the same thing happened with e-commerce. These dismissals are the surest sign that something is already going hypernova.”
In his forthcoming book Managing the Memome (2000, Phobos Press, London) Demic explains how economic circuits pass through thresholds of explosive contagion – or ‘outbreak singularities’. He cites Abstract Machines’ CEO Liz Volta, who describes the cybernetic volatility of e-business, in compatible terms: “Up to a point it’s really exciting, then it becomes frighteningly crazy.”
What is increasingly apparent, Demic continued, is that “there seems to be an affinity between crazes, infancy and occult content (as Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness so disturbingly explored). Both Pokémon and Harry Potter play to children’s fascination with sorcery and monsters, whilst even the Blair Witch Project – aimed at an older audience – relies on the re-animation of childhood terrors for its principal effects. Increasingly, kids are the cutting edge of this thing,” he insisted. “It’s bound to upset people.”
Demic draws attention to recent recurrent incidents in South Carolina, where at his regular ‘Jesus Flamings’ of books, CDs, DVDs and children’s toys, evangelical wild-man Douglas Frushlee has insisted, in his now familiar time-stretched Southern drawl, that “This craziness has to stop.” Frushlee has promised “to cleanse society of blairwitchery, potteroccultism, and damned-to-hell pokydemonism. It isn’t a coincidence that these particular product lines took off so shockingly,” he mutters darkly; “they’re all aligned with infernal powers. They have allies.”
Whilst Demic was keen to distance himself from the extremity of Frushlee’s analysis, he nevertheless seemed to share some of his cosmic paranoia, as his conclusion illustrates: “Crazes open doors. And as things stand now, no one can even imagine what is coming through.”
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