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Studying Sociocultural Networks

On the Viral Logic of Networked Media Objects

F. N. van der Vlist

This paper puts forward a theoretical framework to explore and understand the viral logic of digital replication and sociocultural contagion in an age of networks. It suggests an account of viral logic grounded in the Darwinian understanding of memes as well as in Tarde's understanding of imitation and Bourdieu'shabitus. Using this framework, three specific classes of networked objects were analysed that operate through viral logic on the Web. These classes are activity streams, media conversations, and parasitic media. As a result of these analyses the theoretical framework was extended with a digital account to fit with specific properties of the Web. This research resulted in an applied understanding of viral logic, and of the networks that are shaped by the productivity of memes. It also led to a critical assessment of quantitative analysis, questioning in particular the asymmetrical relation between the social networks and the real world. To this end, a contextual methodology is suggested to complement quantitative analysis with a deep understanding of network mechanics.

network society; viral logic; social diffusion; habitus; platform mechanisms; social streams; cultural analysis

Kind Assignment; Working Paper
Author F. N. van der Vlist
Instructor M. J. Dieter; N. A. J. M. van Doorn
Publication Date 2013, January 11
Institution University of Amsterdam

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