Master By Project: The Viral

Posted on Posted in MA Creative Media Arts

Viral refers to Behaviour like that of a virus, a small infectious agent. Viral is denotive of the word virus that refers to an infectious agent which uses a process of self-replication in order to reach an intended outcome. This outcome in many cases is one of distribution and destruction.

Biologically a viral infection is contracted through absorbing the virus through an organ exploiting such process such as inhalation, injection, digestion etc. The virus once entered the body begins to exploit a cell iterating through the process of division and multiplication. This replication process allows many more viral bodies to be created. The process of iteration continues with the assembly and release, infecting ever more cells within the host. The virus’s will continue to effect more cells until it reaches the objective, this objective could be critical to the survival of the host. Either the virus continues to destroy the host or the host begins to fight the virus the help of the immune system or possibly man-made antibodies.

This process of viral infection is represented in many man-made instances of infection and destruction, for example, computer viruses. Digital virus use a similar process of infection through a weakness in the system, duplication creating interference which pushes the host to critical malfunction or destruction. Digital viruses differ as they not only intend to cause irreversible damage but additionally advance or profit from it in a financial way. Digital viruses such as the “ILOVEYOU” virus was developed to intentionally destroy and cause irrevocable damage to machines, however many virus’s seek to exploit the host rather than just damage it.

The viral phenomenon also refers to the behaviour of a piece of media e.g. the spreading of a piece of information or artefact that rapidly expands and develops, propagating through a particular media platform or series of hosts. This rapid propagation in the media is controlled by the interacting and interaction of hosts, engaging with the media. Biologically, the exchange of viruses between host and cells is controlled by the severity of the virus and the method of contraction. Viruses such as Ebola rapidly onset and in a matter of hours the virus has propagated its way through the body transferring to new hosts via bodily fluids. Similar to this a computer virus’s known as “CryptoLocker” propagates to new hosts using’s the previous host contacts and emails to further infect and distribute itself. This wider propagation between host is how infection spreads within a network, both in biological bodies and technology networks.

Richard Dawkins coining it the word “meme” suggesting this viral propagation or multiplication of media is through host is a meme. In an article The Origin of mems he suggests this in the following way:

“Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.”

The arguments clearly interlink with the propagation of viruses in each form discussed as far. William Burrows describes this in a less subjective and more abstract way to further articulate the process of infection.

Using the term junk he refers to the level of propagation and constantly increasing and requirements of the host to provide for the virus. This either makes the host stronger thus removing the junk or further degrades the host. This discussion refers to the reaction or interaction of the host body fighting and rebelling the virus’s actions and how the host will respond.

As discussed the process of viral phenomenon originated out of a biological scientific concept but has been reapplied to many digital aspects of technology.

Burroughs, W., 1998. Naked lunch. New York: Grove Press.

Dawkins, R., n.d. The selfish gene.

Propagating Light

Reflecting on the context discussed above the work I’m making in response to this uses many ideas such as propagation. I’m interested in the idea propagating light around a space reflecting elements of biology, technology and natural forms. I have begun by testing a method of propagating detailed light around a space.