Personal Blog of Joe Brewer

Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Revealing the Cultural Patterns of Social Movements

In Complex Systems, Cultural Evolution, Economic Patterns on May 1, 2014 at 7:02 am

Every wondered what the patterns of a social movement look like?  Check this out.  I created a graph for the number of Google keyword searches for the phrases Anonymous (the hacker group), Occupy Wall Street, and NSA to see how they change in time.  Each one has a different structure — which reveals important things about how ideas spread in society to produce cultural change.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 7.45.00 AM

Note how Anonymous (the red line) has a series of increasing peaks, each representing a new media event where they gained more exposure.  Each new event brought them more prominence and notoriety.  This is the process of becoming a recognizable and persistent part of the cultural zeitgeist.  Contrast this with the large single peak of Occupy Wall Street, which is the classic shape for a viral media event.  Occupy arose quickly, spread far and wide, then dissipated and largely went away.

This is different from the seeking of information about the NSA (National Security Agency), which was mostly non-existent until the release of classified documents by Edward Snowden.  This event is structured as a plateau with descending peaks to reveal how it rose to prominence and remained in the spot light as new batches of files were periodically released to the public.

All three events have different time signatures that reveal something important about how they (1) came into being; (2) influenced public awareness; and (3) left their mark (or not) on society.

Fascinating, isn’t it?