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Monitoring & Analyzing Social Media

With over 1.5 billion conversations stored, can you afford not to listen?

Nov 18, 2008

William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition and Social Media

“Yes. I want to make the public aware of something they don’t quite know that they know- or have them feel that way. Because they’ll move on that, do you understand? They’ll think they’ve thought of it first. It’s about transferring information, but at the same time about a certain lack of specificity.”

from Pattern Recognition

Pattern Recognition, Wm. Gibson’s 2003 book about a mysterious film being released anonymously on the web, may well be the earliest and best manifestation of social media theory in fiction. Gibson, whose 1984 sci-fi classic Neuromancer predicted many things we take for granted today, famously swore off speculative fiction with Pattern Recognition. The reason? Things are moving so fast technologically today that there’s no need to speculate about the near future: It is unfolding before our eyes.

In Pattern Recgnition the main character, Cayce Pollard is a freelance coolhunter- a person with an uncanny ability to identify emerging trends (and a serious physical allergy to brands!). She is also a footage freak, ‘footage’ being snippets of a mysterious film being released by unknown makers. The footage is followed and dissected my millions of fans via social media. Cayce is hired by a mysterious marketing genius to find the maker of the film.

Whenever I read or reread one of Gibson’s books my perspective of the world is altered. Ideas get turned around and connections are made that were not obvious before. It is a kind of mind development drug he somehow manages to deliver via writing. Cayce’s (pronounced Case) search takes her around the globe and she has the help of a wide range of characters all connected by social media and their obsession with the footage- Japanese anime geeks, gypsies running forum sites, Eastern European collectors of vintage technology and more.

This all looks very much like the world today to me. As Techrigy’s marketing director I am communicating daily with customers, partners and community members all around the planet every day. That communication flows through a variety of channels- blogging, commenting, Twittering, email, IM, etc. The people I talk to often don’t look like me, live like me or share my interests but we have things in common that we could never have explored even a few years ago. With Pattern Recognition, Gibson saw this evolution and used story-telling to bring it alive.

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