Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Theory Objects

You know those things you read and think are interesting, but kind of throw on the back burner? Then like two months later you find yourself yourself quoting it constantly and have to pull it out again and read it? I’ve had one of those moments with an article from Smart Mobs called “It’s about spime”. The essence of it is that with the way Google works communities can develop around words. Because of that, it can be very helpful to use a completely new term to describe new ideas, allowing you to use Google as your social networking tool. Bruce Sterling describes the process as it relates to ‘spimes’:

A neologism, a completely made-up word like ‘spime,’ is a verbal framing device. It’s an attention pointer. I call them “spimes,” not because I necessarily expect that coinage to stick, but because I need a single-syllable noun to call attention to the shocking prospect of things that are plannable, trackable, findable, recyclable, uniquely identified and that generate histories.

I also wanted the word to be Google-able. If you Google the word ‘spime,’ you find a small company called Spime, and a song by a rock star, but most of the online commentary about spimes necessarily centers around this new idea, because it’s a new word and also a new tag. It’s turning into what Julian Bleecker calls a ‘Theory Object,’ which is an idea which is not just a mental idea or a word, but a cloud of associated commentary and data, that can be passed around from mouse to mouse, and linked-to. Every time I go to an event like this, the word “spime” grows as a Theory Object. A Theory Object is a concept that’s accreting attention, and generating visible, searchable, rankable, trackable trails of attention.

I’m not really sure what else I have to say about this, just wanted to share the quote . . . you can continue on with your regularly scheduled activities.

June 21, 2006