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Going Viral [Paperback]

Karine Nahon , Jeff Hemsley
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Oct 2013
We live in a world where a tweet can be instantly retweeted and read by millions around the world in minutes, where a video forwarded to friends can destroy a political career in hours, and where an unknown man or woman can become an international celebrity overnight. Virality: individuals create it, governments fear it, companies would die for it. So what is virality and how does it work? Why does one particular video get millions of views while hundreds of thousands of others get only a handful? In Going Viral, Nahon and Hemsley uncover the factors that make things go viral online. They analyze the characteristics of networks that shape virality, including the crucial role of gatekeepers who control the flow of information and connect networks to one another. They also explore the role of human attention, showing how phenomena like word of mouth, bandwagon effects, homophily and interest networks help to explain the patterns of individual behavior that make viral events. Drawing on a wide range of examples, from the Joseph Kony video to the tweet that spread the news that Osama Bin Laden was dead, from the video of Homer Simpson voting in the US elections to the photo of a police officer pepper–spraying students at the University of California Davis, this path–breaking account of viral events will be essential reading for students, scholars, politicians, policymakers, executives, artists, musicians and anyone who wants to understand how our world today is being shaped by the flow of information online.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press; 1 edition (18 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745671292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745671291
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 522,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"This concise and insightful book targets a niche topic in the studies of digital media that is becoming increasingly relevant to the public. It considers many questions and successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do. Students of media, digital worlds, and information will not be disappointed." LSE Review of Books ′′Virality is what make societies click at the pulse of the Internet. It is at the heart of the new forms of commerce, culture, media, social movements, and politics. This pathbreaking book explains what it is, how it works technologically and socially, and draws out the implications of this process for social change. It is a major contribution to network theory and to the understanding of the network society.′′ Manuel Castells, University of Southern California ′′Ever wonder why a video, meme, or idea spreads like wildfire online? In ′Virality′, Nahon and Hemsley examine the technology, social practices, and cultural conditions that enable media to go viral. This illuminating book gets beyond marketing hype to provide critical insights for understanding the powerful phenomenon of virality. This is a must–read for anyone trying to make sense of how information flows in a networked world.′′ Danah Boyd, Microsoft Research ′′From Rosa Parks to Gangham style––a fascinating look at a defining phenomena of our age– virality, spreading, winner–take–all success. It is more than a fad–– Going Viral offers a compelling argument that viral processes are here to stay, and they are an essential feature of the online fabric.′′ Albert–László Barabási, Northeastern University

About the Author

Karine Nahon is associate professor at the Information School, University of Washington, where she is also director of the Virality of Information (retroV) research group and former director of the Center for Information & Society. Jeff Hemsley is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a PhD thesis 19 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
...not that that's necessarily a bad thing. This is an excellent, wide-ranging study on the concept of online virality as it affects digital marketing, current affairs and social media in general. It's probably true to say that if you don't know what virality is, this book isn't going to be a lot of use to you - it's a fairly academic trawl through the reasons why things spread online in the way they do and how, if at all, their spread can be promoted or limited by our actions as consumers or gatekeepers.

I'm not sure the authors really solve the question of WHY some things catch fire online and others sink without trace. It's easy to see why Susan Boyle's 'Britain's Got Talent' audition caught the public imagination, but other viral miracles - like the video 'Gangnam Style' - are more mysterious. The book does tend to focus a little too much on YouTube - other types of sharable content can and do go viral all the time and there's less insight into that.

There are plenty of graphs and stats to keep the mathematicians happy, and an absorbing debate on whether the impulse for virality is "bottom up" or "top down" - as usual, it turns out to be a little of both.

Probably of most use to those studying or practising a communication led discipline such as social media marketing, communication design, sociology or political science.
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By Angel House VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although this book has an academic pedigree, it is not a difficult read. If you do not have an academic background and get past the references, there is plenty in this book of interest to someone wanting to know more about the viral phenomenon except that the fascinating this is that it is not new and in pre-Internet days, some news items like the arrest of Rosa Parks did spread virally via word of mouth, phone calls and leaflets. This book does not so much explain the 'how to' - rather it gives the context, examples and describes the viral life cycle. It is a must-have for anyone studying the cultural impact of the Internet on contemporary society. I like the fact that the authors come at the subject from both a top level, big picture viewpoint as well as from bottom up, ground-level research.
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By chinhealer VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This definitely feels as if it is aimed more at the student or IT professional rather than the lay reader. But it still remains a (mostly) interesting account of the various manifestations of virality in our brave, new, hyper-connected world.

Unfortunately, there are no conclusive conclusions reached and certainly no easy formulae for creating viral communications/videos etc. But then, the authors are not dealing with a fixed entity and new forms of networking are popping up all the time. Sure, Facebook and Twitter and youtube are today's big players. But who's to say that they will remain so in ten or even five years' time? (I mean, I wouldn't bet against them still being around and exerting major influence on our online lives, but I also wouldn't bet against some smart new whippersnappers muscling in on their territory either.)

In the face of the incredible rate of evolution online, I don't think we can blame the authors for some of their equivocation and some of their unwillingness to even try to hit the target. After all, the goalposts are constantly shifting and books of this nature are destined to be close to obsolete within a relatively short time after publication.
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