An article in yesterday's New York Times discusses how Google queries can anticipate the rise in reported flu outbreaks and beat the forecasts of the CDC, sometimes by weeks at at time.
A similar technique could be used to track Media Ecology activity through Google queries. We have known since the early 1970's that there is a correlation between the rise of reported flu queries and Media Ecology activities. Sometimes, the rise in temperature, the muscle aches and feelings of nausea due to the latter are attributed to the former.
Using the data gathered from Google searches, we can anticipate an increase in Media Ecology activity before it occurs and take steps to prevent it. While there is currently no preventive vaccine or cure available for Media Ecology activity, a few basic steps of mental hygiene can reduce the severity of the outbreak:
- An outbreak of Media Ecology activity often is preceded by a discussion of the works of any of a number of scholars, including Marshall McLuhan, Harold Innis, Walter J. Ong, Neil Postman, Lewis Mumford, Alfred Korzybski or Suzanne Langer.
This may be followed by secondary discussion of Paul Levinson, Lance Strate, Robert Logan, Joshua Meyerowitz or James Carey. Should you encounter a group discussing any of these authors, immediately change the topic to sports, the weather, politics or religion. A good lead in is: "Yes, technology may have influenced the course of human evolution, but weren't weather patterns, available raw material resources and the ineluctable modalities of warfare more significant?"
- While there is no evidence that Media Ecology activity can be picked up on toilet seats, it is advisable to always have a supply of alternative reading material available, including old issues of Consumers Reports, copies of Mad Libs or almost any graphic novel, except any by Douglas Rushkoff or Neil Gaiman.
- Media Ecology activity is easily spread among college students and can then be brought into the home during semester breaks or over weekends. One approach is to make enormous quantities of food available when anticipating a home visit and make sure the student's mouth is always full. Others suggest planning a trip to areas of the world not currently experiencing any Media Ecology outbreaks and leaving before the infected student arrives. While Canada has long been off limits, recent outbreaks in Mexico have put that country in doubt. However, many Caribbean islands are still considered pristine.
- Media Ecology activity is most detrimental to the very young and to the elderly. Special steps should be taken to shield these groups from exposure.
- Avoid enclosed areas where Media Ecologists are known to converge. For example, this weekend at Fordham University in New York City, the Media Ecology Association is co-sponsoring an Institute of General Semantics Symposium, "Creating the Future: Conscious Time-Binding for a Better Tomorrow." It is anticipated that the reported incidents of Media Ecology activity will rise exponentially by the conclusion of this symposium.
- Should you begin to feel any of the symptoms of Media Ecology, bed rest, fluids and aspirin-lots of aspirin- are recommended. Symptoms may persist for up to two weeks, with feelings of lethargy and agoraphobia continuing for up to a month after that.
WARNING: Do not under any circumstances attempt to consult a Ph.D. They will only prolong the course of the disease.