23 May 2006


It's getting easier to organize a reality that may-or-may-not exist.

An article at Adrants proposes that Morgellons disease--that weird-as-shit, alien-type skin problem that's been cropping up in south Texas--could be viral marketing for the upcoming Philip K. Dick movie A Scanner Darkly. Morgellons is compared to delusional parasitosis (which is just what it sounds like) and has an alleged history of doctors refusing to treat it because it's all in the patients' minds. Dick is notable for his novels of paranoia equal to Pynchon yet with some extra psychosis mixed in. Add in viral marketing to blur the lines and the mind boggles. Add to this the comments with the Adrant article. Several people--with that rare disease Morgellons--immediately called bullshit and called the author out. Almost as immediately, others noted the dubious nature of those posts: duplicated entries with different names, duplicate IPs on different entries. More examination only clouded the truth. The mind boggled a little more.

And here we have a Junk Charts article calling for caution in the use of Google Trends. Although I couldn't imagine serious citations coming from GT, its irresistibleness is undeniable. Like Google Battle and Google Fight before it, Google Trends compares two searches but then trumps the other sites by adding a (ungraduated) histogram over months or years. Neat-o. Who wouldn't be compelled to over-emphasize the fact that Java is more important than .NET is more important than Ruby? And so these throw-away comparisons become like a more compelling urban legend. Instead of "my uncle's friend's co-worker's mother said" type of supporting evidence, you have Google to stand behind your assertions. Not so crazy when even Language Log relies on the opaque cipherings of a Google search to determine common usage, even though on several occasions they puzzled over the fact that A OR B != A + B (see here and here and here for starters).

[ posted by sstrader on 23 May 2006 at 12:06:47 PM in Culture & Society | tagged philip k. dick ]