Tarde's phantom takes a deadly line of flight – from Obama Girl to the assassination of Bin Laden

Article


Sampson, A. 2013. Tarde's phantom takes a deadly line of flight – from Obama Girl to the assassination of Bin Laden. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory. 13 (3), pp. 354-366.
AuthorsSampson, A.
Abstract

This paper argues that a return to a theory of crowd contagion can potentially provide a valuable resource by which to think through the operations of the global. In short, the question of how certain events ‘go global’ can be usefully approached by acknowledging how they ‘go viral’. Yet, although popular discourses, particularly those dependent on the purported virality of internet memes, have been quick to grasp something of the logic of globalization, what spreads, and how it spreads, is all too often analogically reduced to the workings of an evolutionary code which problematically fixes contagious phenomena to stringent biological laws.

Global virality is alternatively grasped here by way of a convergence between Gabriel Tarde's society of imitation and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concepts of assemblages and communicable ritornellos. This approach is intended to draw attention to the persistence of often small and mostly unpredictable perturbations and shock events that can, on rare occasions, become large-scale contagions. Referring to the recent example of Obama-love, the paper aims to provide a differently orientated ‘diagram’ of virality, which is neither exclusively biological nor social, but rather positioned at a junction point between the two. This is a diagram of global contagion increasingly put to work by those seeking to exploit the pass-on power of connected publics, but also, as Tarde argued, a diagram with extraordinary revolutionary potential.

JournalDistinktion: Journal of Social Theory
Journal citation13 (3), pp. 354-366
ISSN1600-910X
Year2013
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/1600910X.2012.759983
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1080/1600910X.2012.759983
Publication dates
Online06 Mar 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Mar 2018
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