Sunday, January 01, 2006

Buzz Catalyst: Obscurity

(Happy New Year! Once again: taking the slow time to migrate something on to a live blog from a collection of notes)

The DaVinci Code--a book I haven't read, by the way--is one of the best selling adult books of all time. It's popularity soared, as many books do, primarily through word-of-mouth. There's a short profile of the editor behind the book that helps to explain why: The book contains a significant amount of obscure knolwedge. In fact (as I understand) the plot hinges upon knowing some arcane details.

This is the second catalyst of buzz: the promise that a piece of communication is able to provide the audience with some piece of narrowly-held (and, therefore, valuable) information. The buzz gets sparked for two reasons. The first is that the reader feels empowered (and, naturally, smarter) with this information. The other is that the reader is compelled to use this information, perhaps in a discussion about news of the world. Whatever the case, the information is shared. That's buzz.

Of course, the information itself has to be worthwhile. If the communication piece provides some arcane knowledge about a worthless subject, the buzz goes nowhere. The DaVinci Code provides information about religion and power...an irresistable subject. Again, the Pragmatists did the best job of describing how and why communication happens (and, more importantly, how ideas become fixed in our heads). In "The Will to Believe", William James described ideas as being living or dead; forced or available; or monumentous or trivial. The essay is too much to go into here, but James sought ideas which he called "genuine"--those which were forced, living, and monumentous. The bottom line being, simply: communicate about things people care about.
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5 Comments:

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Anonymous Ganeshan Nadarajan said...

The promise that a piece of communication is able to provide the audience with some piece of narrowly-held (and, therefore, valuable) information.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Linkon said...

“I would like to rest, and welcome the possibility of reveling in obscurity,” he told reporters as he left office.

1:47 PM  

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