Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The means whereby to identify dead forms is Mathematical Law.
The means whereby to understand living forms is Metaphor.
- Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West
I was intrigued by a slide that Clay Shirky presented the other night
that showed the lifespan of a tag. (Here's an older version of the presentation, Ontology is Overrated
.) He showed a graph which mapped the sharp rise in popularity of the word "ajax" - or at least its newest incarnation
- illustrating when the term was coined and its resultant acceptance into the language of web technology.
So, it seems, with a little analysis, you can see that a tag within a system has a certain lifespan. It is born, it lives, and it will (probably) die. That's very interesting information.
Some people want to be sure they know what's 'in' or 'out' on any given day. Don't wear that! That band is the shit! etc. Why do they care about this? Because the people they hang out with do. (Obviously there are some free-spirited ne'er-do-wells who are all flighty and stuff, but, who cares about them anyway?)
I noticed the obvious connection with biology and organicnessosity of this composty organic tag space a while ago - the whole tag/gene/meme thing - and enjoyed talking with my brother
about it, who is (conveniently) an expert biologist. His question? "tags - how do you track them?" Good question!
What a fabulous feature it would be to a) see the actual lifespan of a tag mapped out (or at least referenced in a clever, natty way), and b) to possibly predict the impending doom or imminent death of a word, some language, or a band for that matter.
Funny thing is, when biological organisms grow old, rot and/or ill, they start to stink.
Can we get that Smell-O-Vision online soon?