Popology 13: NYC in 1901
Popology seeks to model popular culture as hit counts in media space.Media space-bandwidth-is finite. The network is as big as it is: It can handle what it can handle, and that's all it can handle. There were as many daily newspapers in New York City in 1901 as there were, and that's all there were.Barko the Wonder Popbot is an imaginary analytical tool capable of collecting and collating perfect popological data. We dispatch Barko to the past and instruct him to collect and collate every daily newspaper published in New York in 1901. Barko gathers copies of every daily newspaper published in New York in 1901 and creates for us a concordance: a list of every word that appeared in any of the newspapers for every day of 1901, and how many times it occurred. We discard all data in the concordance except for proper nouns.We are left with a list containing all the proper nouns that appeared in all newspapers in New York for every day of the year 1901, and how many times each occurred. We necessarily also possess a list of all proper nouns that appeared in all daily newspapers in New York for each week of 1901, each month of 1901 and a list of all proper nouns that appeared in daily newspapers and their frequency for the whole of 1901. Popology asserts that it is self-evidently true that such a concordance plotted over time is a meaningful description of popular culture in New York City in 1901.A concordance of proper nouns from all daily newspapers published in New York City in 1901 is a referent hit-count.If we can imagine performing this analysis on "all daily newspaper in New York City in 1901," we can imagine performing a similar analysis on any medium in any location over any period-for example, all planetary media since the beginning of time.The popological description of culture does not supplant any existing description. It is not that this description is "right," and other descriptions are "wrong." The model is one description among many. The advantage of the popological model is that it yields simple numerical solutions subject to standard mathematical manipulation. The model permits quantifiable assertions about cultural rates of change. It irresistibly suggests a strictly defined metric of cultural significance.Popology asserts: That which is "significant" is that which signifies.