After MIT, Peretti moved to New York to take a job as director of research at Eyebeam Art + Technology Center, a sort of cyberpunk collective started by John Johnson, an heir to the Robert Wood Johnson fortune. "It was this moment of nascent Internet culture colliding with the art world," Johnson says. Peretti began working with what he called "contagious media," attracting a group of collaborators like Ze Frank, the artist Cory Arcangel, and Duncan Watts, a Columbia University professor who studied how ideas moved through social networks.
"Jonah, at least initially, came very much from the viewpoint of 'I can engineer things,'" Watts recalls. "I came from 'No you can't, you just get lucky.'"
"At least initially?" When did he decide it couldn't be engineered? Guess I need to re-skim.
I remember Arcangel telling me about his contagious media group that met once a week, or month. I thought it sounded, to use a term from theory, "deeply full of shit." I understood that a business person or advertiser might want to study viral flow but why would an artist care about that? So you could goose your own stats? Make better animated GIFs? This was around the time Eyebeam invited me to be an Eyebeam Reblogger, where volunteering personages sort of DJ'd content from RSS feeds, using software Peretti and Michael Frumin developed. This was 2004. Peretti left Eyebeam to do terrible work at the Huffington Post and then terrible work at Buzzfeed.
(Eyebeam, that wacky cyberpunk collective, removed all the Reblog archives a few years ago but my three weeks' rebloggin' has been saved on my home cloud; eventually will put it back up for history and nostalgia. FYI Tumblr borrowed the reblog concept from Peretti/Frumin.)