Monday, 21 November 2011

Memetic and organic bait

Deleterious memes typically use what is known as "bait" to attract new hosts.

For example, chocolate commercials used sex appeal in the famous "flake girl" series of advertisements.

However, many organic viruses strike at their hosts without bothering with bait.

How does the phenomenon of "bait" fit into the analogy bewtween deleterious memes and organic viruses? This post explores that issue.

Organic viruses do use bait

Many organic viruses do use "bait" to attract new hosts. For example:
  • The cucumber mosaic virus makes infected plants smell sweet to aphids - which are attracted, feast and then spread the virus to uninfected plants.
  • The virus responsible for glandular fever also uses bait to spread. It tempts uninfected hosts via a kiss, and then spreads via host saliva.
  • Genital warts spread by using a similar form of bait - this time through sexual contact.

Memetic viruses do not always use bait

It is, I confess, harder to think of memes that don't use bait at all. Some organic viruses spread through the air and don't require the host to do much except breathe - but not very many memes work like that.

Bus stations and waiting rooms are confined spaces where airborne organic viruses like to spread. Advertising memes in this kind of environment often have a captive audience and don't need to use bait so much in order to attract attention. Visual memes often do need to work to attract and keep attention - but some audible memes don't have to bother so much in this area. Radio advertisements have a captive audience, and so bait is not so important there. However, I think that probably the best example of deleterious memes without bait is probably subliminal advertising. Again, this is another case of having a captive audience.

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