Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe. Follow @RianVDM
The Cumulative Advantage effect explains some troubling musical trends
Duncan J. Watts in Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage?:
The reason is that when people tend to like what other people like, differences in popularity are subject to what is called “cumulative advantage,” or the “rich get richer” effect. This means that if one object happens to be slightly more popular than another at just the right point, it will tend to become more popular still. As a result, even tiny, random fluctuations can blow up, generating potentially enormous long-run differences among even indistinguishable competitors — a phenomenon that is similar in some ways to the famous “butterfly effect” from chaos theory. Thus, if history were to be somehow rerun many times, seemingly identical universes with the same set of competitors and the same overall market tastes would quickly generate different winners: Madonna would have been popular in this world, but in some other version of history, she would be a nobody, and someone we have never heard of would be in her place.
Forget about that Justin — this finally gives us a satisfactory explanation for Bieber fever. Today, the universe makes just a little bit more sense again.