Name this weird social phenomenon
December 8, 2005 2:31 PM   Subscribe

name this weird social phenomenon. google proof. can involve chewing gum.

I noticed this weird phenomenon where I live, and have been perplexed by it's reason for being, and also its name...

For those of you from Ireland or with a U2 obsession, you might know the train station where you get off to annoy Bono... (Killiney Station)

At this station, on the outside wall there is a line of chewing gum stuck to the wall at about chest height, and it stretches all the way from one end of the station to the other. It probably started in the late 70s and now is about 700 yards long. The station is beside the sea in a non-urban location so this chewing-gum-sticking weirdness is mostly done by train passengers.

The thing is, one person started it, but then other people saw it and took the cue to stick their gum to the wall. There is a name for this phenonemon which I just cannot find on the Web, it being a pretty "google proof" concept to search for. I think it began with "Auto" and is a two-word phrase. It was featured in Fortean Times many years ago.

Another example of this that I have seen is gone now, but it was an old dead tree which people stuck a particular type of coin into. The tree was pretty much covered in coins stuck in sideways, until some opportunist burnt it down, sifted through the ashes for change!

I'd love to hear your suggestions about this, and any other examples of this strangeness in your area.
posted by snailer to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The Traffic Cone statute near George Square, Glasgow.
posted by the cuban at 2:36 PM on December 8, 2005

Boots on fenceposts... sometimes they go on for miles
posted by Cosine at 2:36 PM on December 8, 2005

pairs of shoes (laces tied together) flung onto overhead electic/telephone wires.
posted by pmbuko at 2:41 PM on December 8, 2005

Shoe Tree
posted by captainscared at 2:50 PM on December 8, 2005

bubble gum alley, san luis obispo, ca
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 2:53 PM on December 8, 2005

The Lemming Factor?
posted by GaelFC at 2:54 PM on December 8, 2005

Bra Fence.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:55 PM on December 8, 2005

More Bra Fence.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:55 PM on December 8, 2005

Can't help you with a name for the phenomemon but the natural spring called Cloutie Well near Inverness, Scotland has "fairy" trees covered in rags (Clouts) tied to the branches. More a Celtic superstition than a cultural meme I guess but most people tie their cloth up without knowing the reason why (keeps evil spirits away for one year) so maybe this counts?
posted by brautigan at 2:56 PM on December 8, 2005

Self-organizing behaviors would be the technical term for this.
posted by Rothko at 2:59 PM on December 8, 2005

Specifically: herd behavior.
posted by Rothko at 3:03 PM on December 8, 2005

Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey had scores of trees which were riddled with wads of gum, mainly due to exasperated crowds tired of waiting in line for the rides. In summer months, the stench of chewed bubble gum would often be sickening, as it would swelter under the noonday sun. I'm told security's cracked down on it a bit over the years, but a couple decades back, it was cool to look at, but awful to get a whiff of.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:04 PM on December 8, 2005

Oscar Wilde's grave.
posted by fire&wings at 3:33 PM on December 8, 2005

I was thinking "meme", but the long list of "See Also" on the wikipedia page for meme might have one of the words you were looking for.
(Also: what Rothko said)
posted by easternblot at 3:55 PM on December 8, 2005

posted by librarina at 4:15 PM on December 8, 2005

joe's_spleen's second link is fantastic:

Mrs Turner clearly sees the importance of attending to the Bra Fence. She is Cardrona's asset, not only vacuuming the highway during the winter months she has added to her routinue dusting and washing the Bras on the fence. Thank you Mrs Turner.
posted by blag at 4:19 PM on December 8, 2005

Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey had scores of trees which were riddled with wads of gum, mainly due to exasperated crowds tired of waiting in line for the rides

You brought back a memory, S.D. Thanks.
posted by Miko at 6:53 PM on December 8, 2005

Six Flags Magic Mountain in California has (had?) an old-ass roller coaster called Gold Rusher. At a very slow point of the ride, you can reach out and touch a support beam. This support beam is coated with decades of bubble gum and assorted detritus.
posted by frogan at 8:02 PM on December 8, 2005

Wow! these comments on gum and Six Flags prompted me to Google. The results are disgusting. If you do find out the correct term it sure applies to Six Flags goers. It doesn't seem to be such a weird phenomenon after all.
posted by tellurian at 9:01 PM on December 8, 2005

I've noticed the same effect with museum stickers. You know, when you pay the museum entrance fee and get a coloured sticker (a different colour each day). There will be a certain tree or trash can outside the entrance covered with brightly coloured stickers. It's quite pretty, and without the chewing gum stench factor.
posted by daravida at 11:27 PM on December 8, 2005

There's a particular tree under a ski lift at Whistler-Blackholme (if memory serves) that is chock full of ladies underwear -- mostly bras, but some panties, too. Gotta be some neat gymnastics goin on there on the way up the mountain!
posted by LordSludge at 8:19 AM on December 9, 2005

I have never seen it (in fact, it's the type of thing I'd avoid), but I've heard there's a repository of used chewing gum called the Wailing Wall in Portland, Oregon -- back patio of Beulahland, 118 NE 28th Ave.
posted by Rash at 9:14 AM on December 9, 2005

It's sort of auto-catalytic. A process that once started, keeps going. In a metaphoric sense.
posted by voidcontext at 9:22 AM on December 9, 2005

Lovers padlocks in Pecs Hungary

The Hungarian city of Pecs is fighting a losing battle against padlocks which lovers are secretly clamping on statues and gates all over the city centre as symbols of their enduring affection.

The tradition dates back to the early 1980s when lovers began fixing single padlocks on a wrought iron fence in the heart of Pecs. With no room now left on the fence, couples are fastening their love tokens on anything that will hold a padlock, including statues.

posted by Mitheral at 12:47 PM on December 9, 2005

[This is one of the coolest AskMes ever].

So, is auto-catalytic the word? From my brief searching it seems as though it's exclusively a chemistry concept. I can't wait to find out what social scientists call this behavior.
posted by Miko at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2005

Even more specifically:

stigmergy is the self organization principle as mediated through material culture. I've been applying this theory to archaeological data for some time now, it seems to be an important principle in long term human organization.

Another search term for you is
posted by Rumple at 3:39 PM on December 9, 2005

Miko: auto-catalytic is just a chemistry term. This behaviour just reminded me of that word.
posted by voidcontext at 12:20 PM on December 14, 2005

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