Catastrophic Frequencies

Hypothesis of Catastrophic Frequencies

If a sign pre-exists the catastrophic event it later comes to signify, it is likely to occur with low frequency prior to the event relative to the news cycle concurrent with the catastrophe. The more time passes, from the moment of the catastrophe, the less newsworthy the event will be regarded and the less frequently the sign will occur. It is likely that all major catastrophes will be revisited on the first (and possibly subsequent) anniversaries, which will be reflected in a spike in frequencies. If a catastrophe has been elevated to the status of myth or mythology, it is likely that it will be invoked at a regular rate significantly greater than pre-signification.

From these expectations, five phenomena can be defined as the Background, the Catastrophe, the Aftermath, the Latency and the Memorials:

  • Background – a pre-mythic period (1) prior to the Singularity, (2) in which the Signifier and Signified may exist independently, (3) measurable word frequencies establish a baseline for comparison.
  • Catastrophe – the catastrophic moment which alters the physical environment: (1) media coverage of the event names the event, attaching the Signifier to the Signified, (2) word frequency spikes to orders of magnitude over the Background.
  • Aftermath – political, social, economic and psychological recovery from the catastrophe in which a mythology is constructed. Marked by (1) a search for meaning, (2) the assignment of blame, (3) a search for lessons, (4) the re-branding by application of new Signifiers, (5) word frequencies decline geometrically.
  • Latency – a new post-catastrophe baseline is established as the mythology enters the cultural symbolic library. Marked by (1) use of the Signifier without discussion of the Signified, (2) regular word frequency sets a new baseline above that of the Background.
  • Memorials – a periodic re-visitation of the catastrophe and the mythos (1) during anniversaries, or (2) to lend the mythology to similar sub-catastrophic events.