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The Almighty Buck The Internet United States Idle

Indiana University Researchers Get $1 Million Grant To Study Memes 126

An anonymous reader writes with news that the NSF has just awarded a group of researchers a grant to study the life cycle of memes. "Indiana University is receiving nearly $1 million in federal grant money to investigate the genesis, spread, and demise of Internet memes. The grant from the National Science Foundation awards four Indiana researchers $919,917 to for a project called Truthy that will, as the grant's abstract explains, "explore why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten." (And yes, in case you're wondering, the name was inspired by Stephen Colbert's neologism "truthiness.") The government-funded research is aimed at identifying which memes are organic and which ones are mere astroturf. "While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns," Truthy's About page explains."
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Indiana University Researchers Get $1 Million Grant To Study Memes

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  • by Brewmeister_Z ( 1246424 ) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @08:23AM (#47773119)

    I don't always get paid to surf the Web but when I do, I make sure to get a grant that could have gone to a better cause...

  • Interesting. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @08:33AM (#47773159) Journal
    One doesn't have to see the value in stuff that isn't immediately applicable R&D(and I'm not here to debate the point, do as you will); but if you are OK with the concept of such research this actually seems like a pretty good idea:

    The question of how and why ideas, 'culture', religions, new scientific hypotheses, etc. are transmitted and compete with one another is really a very long standing one. A lot of the historical study emphasizes 'elite' culture and theory(mostly because everything else was oral record only, and that doesn't keep well; but written works sometimes survive) or religious(high frequency of literacy, and proselytizing is a technology of considerable interest to contemporary religions); but there is also study of popular culture, folk mythologies, what the middle and lower classes were reading and watching(once that became common), and so on.

    Cultural transmission is a very solid social science topic, and internet memes have the dual virtues of both potentially being novel(they might actually follow some traditional propagation pattern, might be something new, either way would be interesting to know) and being amenable to large-scale analysis because the internet is just so conveniently searchable and heavily cached in various places. You don't have to like the entire field; but this research project seems like a perfectly reasonable exercise.
  • Re:Memes = Politics? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday August 28, 2014 @09:19AM (#47773445) Homepage Journal

    The odd part of this story is when it says:

    some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns

    yet I'm failing to think of even one example of a viral meme that fits into that category. I mean, yeah, trigger words for government funding and all that, but even one?

    If somebody wants to tell me that Nanci Pelosi's people came up with Doge, OK, fine, I'd believe it, but I've never heard any such insinuations.

  • by Perl-Pusher ( 555592 ) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @09:22AM (#47773479)
    From the extract:
    "This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate. "
    Or more aptly:
    "This service could mitigate free speech, detect anything we don't agree with and allow us to control the message"

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.