AAAI Publications, Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media

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Insights into Internet Memes
Christian Bauckhage

Last modified: 2011-07-05


Internet memes are phenomena that rapidly gain popularity or notoriety on the Internet. Often, modifications or spoofs add to the profile of the original idea thus turning it into a phenomenon that transgresses social and cultural boundaries. It is commonly assumed that Internet memes spread virally but scientific evidence as to this assumption is scarce. In this paper, we address this issue and investigate the epidemic dynamics of 150 famous Internet memes. Our analysis is based on time series data that were collected from Google Insights, Delicious, Digg, and StumbleUpon. We find that differential equation models from mathematical epidemiology as well as simple log-normal distributions give a good account of the growth and decline of memes. We discuss the role of log-normal distributions in modeling Internet phenomena and touch on practical implications of our findings.

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