Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.


As I mentioned in my recent note on memes, the phenomena make good use of twitter. And with a new tool called Twist you can see mentions of words quantitatively, illustrating trends that are possibly occurring. The obvious one for today has been the mention of “Michael Jackson” or “MJ” which at the peak of the discussion of the news was actually trending at 26% of all messages on twitter.1 It turns out that the King of Pop reigns supreme even after his demise. However, I spotted a sillier trend in investigating Twist as a tool. Being in possession of the mind I have and maybe because it’s Friday afternoon, I decided to see how the word “penis” fares on Twitter. It turns out that the word is fairly consistently used in roughly .03% of Twitter messages. But then I wondered, why the spike on June 24 at 11:30pm EST? For a brief time, the usage of the word penis spiked to practically double its normal mean at .07% of messages. Why the blip? I looked into some of the messages that were being posted and noticed that it was likely the fault of Jon Stewart. The Daily Show—a satirical show about current events2—airs at 11:00pm EST. During that particular Wednesday episode, discussing events surrounding SC governor Mark Sanford, said “…another conservative politician with a liberal penis.” Voilá! Instant memeburst.

  1. I’m not going to use the word tweets. I already tolerate blogging. One stupid internet noun is enough. 

  2. And the bright stuff surrounding you now is called daylight! People who don’t live under rocks get to see this all the time!—when we’re not watching the Daily Show. 

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