Microsoft viral search

Mark Graham linked, on twitter, to an MIT Technology Review article concerning recent work conducted by MS Research around the theme of ‘viral search’ – the ways in which ideas spread across social networking systems. This work has also been demonstrated in poster presentations, including the presentation documented in the video below. Just on a brief reflection, it is interesting that the visualisations demonstrate the multiple emergence of ‘contagious’ trends – lots of separate people will initiate parallel waves of re-tweeting of a particular story, picture or video. Of course, there’s no way of knowing what the initial impetus for tweeting may have been for tweeting, so there may also be cross-media contagion taking place that is not picked up by this system.

Perhaps this also signals a need to critically examine the implicit authority of ‘big’ data sets – just as it does with maps. The base data, whether it be cartographic or social, assumes an authority by virtue of its apparent completeness, accessibility (at least to those who can pay), and sheer scale. Nevertheless, certain characteristics may be favoured, or silenced, by the nature of the organisation and representation of the data. No platform is totally neutral…

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