The polysemous virus carries a number of in-built contradictions for such a critical keyword. Yet it seems “intuitive” in all its senses, from malign to benign. Although virus is a keyword in diverse fields, from science and medicine to popular culture and technology, despite different meanings, the underlying concepts are similar: viruses suggest uncontrolled proliferation, as in the “viral” spread of disease and the “viral” contamination of computers.

This essay may be found on page 213 of the printed volume.

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