On Thingness

First, I must apologize for forgetting to post last week.  I just forgot until it was basically too late.

Now on to this week’s post. As I was reading through my students’ blog posts, I noticed that a number of them were talking about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Well, both have now come and gone, but they left me thinking about thingness.

What is thingness?  Just another made-up bloggy word?

Yeah.  Not a new concept; in fact, in the social media world, it’s actually expressed by the term meme. It’s something that gets passed around and latched onto and shared until it becomes…ta daaa!  A thing!

Cyber Monday is a thing. An observable pattern that, through time and repetition, has become a recognizable, named concept that influences behavior.  It’s what marketers of the past would have dreamed of: becoming a household word, or being turned into a verb, as in “I Googled it…”

Thingness is the holy grail of social media marketing. But how does it happen?

Oddly, this seems to fit with other research I’ve done as an academic; I’ve been pickaxeing (okay, I seem to be on a made-up-word kick today) at the idea since my dissertation a zillion years ago. The basic ideas that keep coming to mind are Ernest Bormann’s symbolic convergence theory, plus some of Aristotle’s topoi, plus some of Poole and Hirokawa’s take on structuration.  All three are looking at how people engage with an idea that comes from someone else, and how that idea influences others and spreads.

Surely there is some combination of psychology and magic that can show us how things become things online. A number of scholars have been working on this idea, but we’re not there yet. Any readers know of good studies that get closer to how this works?


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