Predicting popularity and success in cultural markets is hard due to strong inequalities and inherent unpredictability. A good example comes from the world of fashion, where industry professionals face every season the difficult challenge of guessing who will be the next seasons’ top models. A recent study by CNetS graduate student Jaehyuk Park, research scientist Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia (also at the IU Network Science Institute), and research scientist Emilio Ferrara (now at the University of Southern California) is now showing that early success in modeling can be predicted from the digital traces left by the buzz on social media such as Instagram. The study has been accepted for presentation at the 19th ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW’16). The work has been covered in the media by the MIT Technology Review, Die Welt, Fusion, and iTNews.
Online popularity can be thought of as analogous to an earthquake; it is sudden, unpredictable, and the effects are severe. While shifts in online popularity are not inherently destructive – consider the unprecedented magnitude of online giving via Twitter following the disaster in Haiti – they indicate radical swings in society’s collective attention. Given the increasingly profound effect that large-scale opinion formation has on important phenomena like public policy, culture, and advertising profits, understanding this behavior is essential to understanding how the world operates.
In this paper by Ratkiewicz and colleagues, the authors put forth a web-wide analysis that includes large-scale data sets of the online behaviors of millions of people. The paper offers a novel model that is is capable of reproducing all of the observed dynamics of online popularity through a mechanism that causes sudden, nonlinear bursts of collective attention. These results have been mentioned in the APS and PhysOrg websites.
I gave four invited talks in Spain, Italy, and Switzerland this summer:
- June 18: Social similarity at Yahoo! Labs Barcelona (host: Ricardo Baeza-Yates) — this is where I got the idea of a foosball table in the lab…
- June 19: Dynamics of Online Popularity at the University of Barcelona’s Department of Fundamental Physics (host: Marian Boguna)
- June 25: Social similarity at DEI, Politecnico di Milano (host: Stefano Ceri)
- June 26: Modeling text generation at the Faculty of Informatics, University of Lugano (host: Fabio Crestani)
Thanks to my wonderful hosts and their groups for engaging discussions and delightful hospitality!