A Case Study In Memetic Epidemiology

Mickey Kaus today has yet another item on the (possible) politico-blogger contribution to the Trent Lott auto-auto-da-fe. The idea is that emails from Sidney Blumenthal provided the crucial impetus that got various folks hot and blogging about the affair. Kaus credits Glenn Reynolds with calling such email "the 'dark matter' of the blogosphere."

Which is all well and good, except that I know where Reynolds got the phrase. He got it from me. Where's my citation, is what I want to know?

I'm pretty sure about this claim. You see, for the Blogs conference last month, I drove out to the airport to pick up Reynolds and Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage. Reynolds' plane got in an hour before hers, so we talked about blogging for a while. During that conversation, I referred to the "dark matter of the blog universe;" Reynolds repeated the phrase and said that he hadn't heard it before and liked it.

There are two caveats to my claim of priority. First, I was using the phrase to talk about blogs, not email. I was thinking of the zillions of blogs that we don't read but are still out there. Any one person's media intake is restricted to a very small subset of the blogs out there, and yet those other blogs, vastly more numerous than the ones we do read, still exert massive gravitational pulls. So Reynolds has introduced a mutation into the dark matter meme; he's turned it loose with a different association.

And second, I didn't come up with the phrase either. If you search on "dark matter blog," you don't get many hits, but you turn up enough to reconstruct my reading. I got the phrase from Kottke, who got it from a Steven Levy article no longer on the web.

So much for my claim to fame. I am, however, proud to have been the agent of contagion between two vastly more famous people. I'd like to think that, but for my intervention, this meme would never have crossed from the general-interest cultural-blogger world into the more influential but also far stranger political blogger world. Some days, I see this as my role in this world. I see people trying formulate thoughts, and I put them in touch with the ideas they need.