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Contagious ideas infect UMaine campus
New Media class studies the propagation of viral "memes"
Contagious Media7_DECEMBER_2009. Perhaps you've seen them: maple leaves scattered through the Union imprinted with a url; students walking by the library freeze for five minutes with a bankruptcy filing in their hands; rumors of a "Divorce Photographer" who preserves that special moment in which a couple decides to call it quits.

Over this past semester, a class in "Contagious Media" has explored techniques for propagating ideas virally using the Internet and street performances. On Monday 7 December, the course culminates in a Contagious Idea Expo at the Foster Innovation Center from 5-7pm. There students will unveil a new social network, NMDnet, designed to supercharge the circulation of ideas among New Media students, faculty, and alumni.

Contagious Idea Expo

Foster Innovation Center

Monday 7 December, 5-7pm

Free to the U-Me community


Contagious MediaAmong the projects represented will be DearMaineStreet.com, an online clearing house for suggestions and feedback to improve the much-maligned "MaineStreet" university courseware. Student Alex Marquis had the idea of using fall leaves for promoting viral ideas, or "memes." With the help of classmates Gabe Winski, Nick Fiore, and others, soon real maple leaves printed with the project's Web address began appearing across campus. Eventually a photograph of one made it onto the front page of the Maine Campus, and visitorship to the Web site spiked from 5 to 200 hits.


Contagious Media

Divorce Photography, a Contagious Media project by Intermedia grad student Matt Leavitt, documents a prevalent but underrecognized part of the lives of real people. As the Web site explains:


 

When people fall in love, they celebrate it in a very special ceremony. They invite their friends, family, loved ones, and the photographer. The photographer is there to captures the memories for the bride and groom (or groom and groom, or bride and bride) for all time, but what happens when that all goes sour?

Divorce Photography aims to capture the moments that are just as memorable as the ones that are taken down the aisle. We are not trying to glorify divorce or encourage break-ups, relationships are important, but it shouldn't be as taboo, people break up, it is part of life, so let's look at why.

 

Another way to mobilize attention in a bottom-up fashion is the flash mob, a technique employed by Contagious Media students to promote awareness of the vulnerabilities of corporations with unethical or incompetent business practices. In a recent event outside of Fogler Library, a seemingly random assortment of several dozen people froze in their tracks, staring motionless at a bankruptcy statement recently filed by the Internet service provider Fairpoint. The event was organized by anonymous representatives of Failpoint, an organization founded to spur Fairpoint to address the needs of its consumers.


Other class projects include Joshua Smith's Twerp!, a series of ordinary people "Tweeting" their private feelings in person rather than via the impersonal medium of Twitter; Chris Bagley's Web site devoted to airing public information about the highest-paid state employees; and other viral promotions of video and networks.

Apart from these projects, the centerpiece of the Contagious Idea expo will be NMDnet, an experiment in creating a "meta-network" of social networks to help unite in a single conversation the New Media Department's students, faculty, and alumni. The NMD community is increasingly dispersed across different networks, with undergraduates on Facebook, alumni on Twitter, and everyone in between getting their news via blogs, email, and the Web. NMDnet exploits cross-network protocols to allow users to check news in any of these platforms and for their comments to re-appear on a centralized blog even if they come from Twitter or Facebook.

Refreshments will be served at the event, courtesy of the New Media Department and Still Water. For more information, please contact Jon Ippolito.

Still Water



Updated: 2009-12-02 by Jon Ippolito

Updated: 2010-04-24 by Jon Ippolito
Posted 2009-12-02 10:35:50 by Jon Ippolito
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