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Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this thought-provoking work, Tony D. Sampson presents a contagion theory fit for the age of networks. Unlike memes and microbial contagions, Virality does not restrict itself to biological analogies and medical metaphors; it instead points toward a theory of contagious assemblages, events, and affects. For Sampson, contagion is how society comes together and relates.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8292-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Before laying down the initial groundwork for the theoretical foundations ofVirality, it must be clearly stated that this is not the first study to have intuitively considered the ubiquity of epidemiological encounters in the so-calledage of networks. A growing number of present-day authors, writing from social science, humanities, network science, economic, and business perspectives, have evoked a past interest in contagion theory by pondering its relevance to the current age. Some of these accounts point to the intensification in connectivity brought about by network technologies as a possible trigger for increased chances of infection from wide-ranging social, cultural,...

  4. 1 Resuscitating Tarde’s Diagram in the Age of Networks
    (pp. 17-60)

    As a continuation of the themes cursorily approached in the introduction, this first chapter sets out to explain the specificity of Tarde’s resuscitation and how his ontological diagram lays the groundwork forVirality. It begins with an interpretation of the foundational sociological ideas Tarde forwarded in three key texts:Social Laws, The Laws of Imitation, andPsychological Economy. These books introduced a complex series of interwoven microrelations, the diagram of which provides a novel alternative to dominant micro- and macroreductionisms so often attributed to social, cultural, and economic relationality. The aim here is to disentangle Tarde from Durkheim’s collective consciousness...

  5. 2 What Spreads? From Memes and Crowds to the Phantom Events of Desire and Belief
    (pp. 61-96)

    This chapter begins with the premise that what spreads through a social network is all too often attributed to two largely uncontested logics of resemblance and repetition. First, cultural contagion is assumed to correspond to a distinctive biologically determined unit of imitation. This is unquestionably a mechanistic virality analogically compared to the canonical imprint of genetic code. Second, what spreads is said to occur in a representational space of collective contamination in which individual persons who become part of a crowd tend toward thinking in the same mental images (real and imagined). Like this, the reasoned individual is seemingly overpowered...

  6. 3 What Diagram? Toward a Political Economy of Desire and Contagion
    (pp. 97-126)

    It is Deleuze’s reading of Foucault that stresses the ontological importance of locating the appropriate abstract diagram to grasp the forces of social power relations.¹ The most suitable diagram can both exercise a force (or many forces of relation) on the social field and display these relations between forces that determine concrete features apparent in the field. Today the ubiquitous diagram of social power is, it would seem, the network, and the force of relation is increasingly understood in terms of epidemics and contagions represented by network graphs. In recent years, indeed, the nodes and edges of the network space...

  7. 4 From Terror Contagion to the Virality of Love
    (pp. 127-158)

    This chapter continues to the question how virality might be purposely (and deceivingly) steered through the accidentality of Tarde’s epidemiological social space. It endeavors, as such, to identify and unravel the pretexts underscoring two communication stratagems.¹ The first,immunologic, involves the spreading of fear relating to encounters between a knowable self and an unknown nonself to justify, among other things, the intensification of security measures. The second is grasped through the concept ofviral love. This is a deceptive joyful encounter that seems to be ever more deployed in the affectively charged arenas of corporate and political persuasion. The first...

  8. 5 Tardean Hypnosis: Capture and Escape in the Age of Contagion
    (pp. 159-192)

    Tarde’s social somnambulism is a mesmerized subjectivity in the making. It is defined by an inseparable and insensible relation established between mechanical habit and a dream of volition. The somnambulist is caught up, as such, in a feverish dream of command and a dream of action in which he is “possessed by the illusion that [his] ideas, all of which have been suggested to [him], are spontaneous.”¹ This hypnotic dream state renders subjectivities open to suggestibility, drawing them into an imitative social medium, making them the example that is copied and passed on—and potentially made more predictable and docile...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 193-194)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-222)
  11. Index
    (pp. 223-236)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-237)