What makes something go viral? For example, [Cordell] and his colleagues, computer scientist David Smith and English professor Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, are currently mining the Library of Congress's collection of 19th-century newspapers, using an algorithm that automatically finds reprinted texts. They've created an index of 45,000 such reprinted texts, and now they're sorting through it to find out which pieces were the most viral, and identify qualities they share.
So the question becomes: What can studying viral culture from 200 years ago tell us about viral culture online today? As it turns out, the impressions Cordell has formed studying a period so long ago are exactly those that would lead you to believe that Twogirlsandapuppy would have a chance at catching on, but would at the same time lead you to dramatically underestimate the velocity and degree to which it would do so. Nineteenth century viral culture is quite like today's Internet culture. And then again, it's something totally different.
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