Last night I listened to a piece on NPR about the ‘Contagious Media‘ contest:

It’s a race among Web designers to see who can send out the most contagious e-mail. “Contagious media” are all those little amateur videos, singing computer animations and e-mail hoaxes that your friends send you.

And from the Eyebeam Institute (the contest’s sponsor):

Announcing the world’s first Contagious Media Showdown. Do you have what it takes to corral enough traffic to win the cash prizes? Can you make the next Dancing Baby, All Your Base, or Star Wars Kid and ride into the sunset with the bounty?

This brought to mind a work of fiction I enjoyed recently called Bellwether…about a sociologist trying to determine where fads come from. In it she writes that scientific discovery, like any other human endeavor, is “messy, haphazard, misdirected, and heavily influenced by chance.” Much like the ‘contagious media‘ these folks are striving to create. The idea behind the contest is an interesting one, but I don’t know that viral trends can successfully be engineered. Human behavior is too unpredictable and spontaneous. Still, the showdown entries have gone live, so judge for yourself.