Home > Digital Contagions, Media ecology, media studies, network politics, viruses > Virality and Digital Contagions

Virality and Digital Contagions

The publisher of my book Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses (2nd updated edition, 2016) has given free access to the preface by Sean Cubitt and my Introduction to the book.  The download can be accessed on the publisher’s website.

From Sean Cubitt’s opening words:

“There is a disturbing etymological puzzle underlying the title. “Contagion” appears to be a late fourteenth-century coinage, appearing in the wake of the Black Death in mediaeval French and Middle English, from the Latin roots “con,” meaning “with,” and “tangere,” the active verb “to touch.” The puzzle comes from another word we associate at least equally closely with electronic media, “contact.” Here the root words are the same, with the only exception that “contact” comes from the passive form “tactum,” “to be touched.” Oddly, most people probably feel positive connotations about “contact,” but negative connotations from “contagion.” We have had six hundred years to develop these connotations, and yet there remains a nub of their origins: the contagious principle of something coming to touch us or to touch us together is more subjective than the principle of contact, where any two things could be brought together. The usefulness of the electrical contact as a major metaphor, dating back through early electrical experiments and familiar from the literature of the pioneering days of motoring and aviation, gives it both a certain objectivity and a sense of familiarity that we bring into the realm of communicative contact. Not so contagion, even though it is very close, at least etymologically.”

In this context, it might be also relevant to mention the piece the French publication AOC commissioned us with Tony Sampson to write on different models of virality and media.

Here’s the link to the French version.

And Boundary 2 Online published the English version: The New Logics of Viral Media.

  1. Vásári Melinda
    April 14, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Dear Jussi, thank you very much. I would be really interested in the article but when I tried to open it, the following sentence appeared: “You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.” I would love to read it if it is possible.

    • April 14, 2020 at 10:14 am

      hi! happy to help – which one are you triyng to access? the two articles should open as normal web pages, and the book’s open access content is accessible through a download on the bottom right of the Peter Lang website page 🙂 Let me know and happy to help

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