Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What Rules Pop Culture?

There was an interesting article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. You can read it here. The article raises the question of why do some bands or movies become so popular. Were they just good or was there some kind of luck involved? According to the article, "reliable hit prediction is impossible." Maybe if the world had been only slightly different, the Beatles might not have been as popular as they were. The author of the article, Duncan Watts, used the internet to run some experiments (described in the article). To make a long story short, it seems that what we end up liking is based largely on knowing that someone else likes it. But in some experiments a song became very popular and in others it did not. If, in the beginning, people saw that other people just happened to like a song, then they liked it and vice-versa. All of this is clearly described in the article, which is relatively short and well written.

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