What is it that makes a news event, story or social trend light up the Internet — “go viral,” in the parlance of social media?
And what in particular makes Idaho stories catch fire?
Viral Idaho! on Thursday, March 24, will explore those topics in a panel discussion during Storyfort, sponsored by The Cabin as an an adjunct event to the Boise music festival Treefort. The Statesman is a sponsor of the event, which also has a website.
Last fall, event organizers met to discuss the idea of how news coverage and social media shapes the stories that sweep the internet. For Storyfort, they wanted to create an event that focused on Idaho stories. From that grew the idea of stories that shape a certain narrative about the Gem State in popular culture.
Think about it: When someone mentions Idaho, what comes to mind?
“Viral Idaho! is all about of the big news stories that have spread well beyond Idaho and shaped the world’s perception and image of our state,” said Christian Winn, the Boise author and organizer for Storyfort program. “As a storytelling event, the panel discussion blends perfectly with the mission of Storyfort and The Cabin, which is to bring the genius of story in all its many forms to Treefort.”
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the earliest usage of the phrase “go viral” to a computer magazine article in 1989. Internet sleuths have tracked its earliest online reference to an article from 2000.
But the question of what is viral-worthy existed long before the World Wide Web — way before, in fact. Aristotle even wondered about it, in not so many words, as a 2014 article in The New Yorker noted. The article discusses the factors that can propel a story to the farthest corners of the internet, qualities such as emotion, social currency, how it triggers memory and, of course, how good a story it is.
For the Viral Idaho! discussion Thursday, event planners decided to pull together 15 stories from Idaho’s history, dating to Idaho’s territorial days, and invite the public to decide which three stories to discuss in detail. The event’s website, viralidaho.com, includes a poll where users can pick their Top 3. They range from the greed-fueled, backcountry murder of a Lewiston trader in 1863 right up to present day, when several Idahoans took part in the occupation of the federal buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refugue in Oregon.
Viral Idaho! A Storyfort event
▪ Thursday, March 24, 1-2:30 p.m., Storyfort Headquarters, Linen Building, 2nd floor, 1402 W. Grove St., Boise.
Panelists: Harrison Berry, staff writer, Boise Weekly; Greg Hahn, former journalist, associate vice president/communications, Boise State University; Martin Peterson, former state budget director, public policy expert, Idaho historian; Anna Webb, community reporter, Idaho Statesman. Moderator: Bill Dentzer, state government reporter, Idaho Statesman.