Going Viral

Karine Nahon & Jeff Hemsley

We live in a world where a tweet can be instantly retweeted and read by millions around the world in minutes, where a video forwarded to friends can destroy a political career in hours, and where an unknown man or woman can become an international celebrity overnight. Virality: individuals create it, governments fear it, companies would die for it.

In this important new book Nahon and Hemsley uncover the factors that make things go viral online. They analyze the characteristics of networks that shape virality, including the crucial role of gatekeepers who control the flow of information. They also explore the role of human attention, showing how word of mouth, bandwagon effects, homophily, and interest networks help to explain the patterns of individual behavior that make viral events.

Drawing on a wide range of examples, this path-breaking account of viral events will be essential reading for students, scholars, politicians, policymakers, executives, artists, and anyone who wants to understand how our world today is being shaped by the flow of information online.


Get It Now

Find a copy of Going Viral online:

amazon link   B&n link publisher link


“Virality is what make societies click at the pulse of the Internet. It is at the heart of the new forms of commerce, culture, media, social movements, and politics. This path-breaking book explains what it is, how it works technologically and socially, and draws out the implications of this process for social change. It is a major contribution to network theory and to the understanding of the network society.”

Manuel Castells, University of Southern California


“Ever wonder why a video, meme, or idea spreads like wildfire online? In Going Viral, Nahon and Hemsley examine the technology, social practices, and cultural conditions that enable media to go viral. This illuminating book gets beyond marketing hype to provide critical insights for understanding the powerful phenomenon of virality. This is a must-read for anyone trying to make sense of how information flows in a networked world.”

danah boyd


“From Rosa Parks to Gangnam style – a fascinating look at a defining phenomenon of our age – virality, spreading, winner-takes-all success. It is more than a fad – Going Viral offers a compelling argument that viral processes are here to stay, and they are an essential feature of the online fabric.”

Albert-László Barabási, Northeastern University

Learn More

Going Viral Ch 1 [Downloadable content from the book]
Introduction to the book.

Book Review [LSE Review of Books]
An interview by Nikki Soo

#NSMNSS Interview with Going Viral Authors
Janet Salmons interviews Nahon and Hemsley

What it Meant To ‘Go Viral’? [WPR – Interview in the ‘Central Time’ Show]
Rob Ferrett interviews Karine Nahon about why virality is not new, and what is the impact of virality

From ‘Charilie Bit Me’ to ‘Gangam Style’: Professors Explores why Things Go Viral  [USAToday Interview]
Dan Reimold interviews Karine Nahon about the interesting aspects of the viral process

Plague of Viral Memes? [Inside HigherEd Review]
Talks mainly about the difference between Viral Events and Memes.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame [Academic Article]
The power dynamics among blogs at times of elections.


University of Washington News Release [Dec. 3, 2013]

Check out chapter 1 [Dec. 1, 2013]

The book is out! [Nov. 25, 2013]


Karine Nahon

Karine Nahon studies the relationship between society and information technologies, while focusing on politics and policy of information. How social networks change traditional power structures? What makes someone a network gatekeeper? What impact do social networks and information flows have on our lives as individuals, communities and societies?Nahon is an associate professor at the Information School at University of Washington. She is the director of the Virality of Information research Group and a member of the Social Media Lab (SoMe Lab). Her papers are published in top-tier journals and she developed well-recognized theoretical frameworks like Network Gatekeeping Theory and cultured technology.

She divides her time between Tel-Aviv and Seattle. Nahon is publicly active on topics of open government, control of information, digital divides and privacy. Among other things, she acts as a member of the Israeli CIO (Chief Information Officer) Cabinet, a board member of the Freedom of Information Movement, and a board member of the Workshop for Open Knowledge. She represents Israel in the UN in the committee for science and technology. Her voice promotes transparency of public information, and at the same time protecting privacy rights of individuals and communities.

Jeff Hemsley

Jeff Hemsley is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington’s Information School and am a founding member of the Social Media Lab at UW. I research and write about questions like: How does information flow through our social networks? How do viral information flows act as feedback mechanisms that both recreate and change our social structures? How do viral events change the structures of social networks? These are the kinds of questions I research and write about. I believe that the set of communication tools called social media form an emerging social infrastructure that is transforming the way humans do business, socialize and interact with the power structures – both traditional and novel. When information flows in our networks it can create interest networks that facilitate the conversation, collaboration and even collective action.

I have a Master of Science in Information Science from the University of Washington’s Information School and a B.A. in Economics (summa cum-laude), with an emphasis in statistics, and a minor in Mathematics from Cal State East Bay. Before returning to school, I spent 15 years in the software industry as a Software Test Engineer and QA Manager.