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novelty U-curve directory


“Why Do Hipsters Steal Stuff?”, Branwen 2022

LARPing: “Why Do Hipsters Steal Stuff?”⁠, Gwern Branwen (2022-04-29; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Many fashions and artworks originate as copies of practical objects. Why? Because any form of optimized design is intrinsically esthetically-pleasing, and a great starting point.

Countless genres of art start in appropriating objects long incubated in subcultures for originally practical purposes, often becoming fashionable and collectible because no longer practically relevant, such as fancy watches. This seems a little odd, and leads to weird economic situations where brands bend over backwards to try to maintain ‘authenticity’ by, say, showing that some $5,000 pair of sneakers sold to collectors has some connection to a real athlete.

With an infinite design-universe to explore, why does this keep happening and why does anyone care so much? Why, indeed, is l’art pour l’art not enough and people insist on the art being for something else, even when it blatantly is not?

Because humans respond esthetically to not simply complexity or ornamentation, but to the optimal combination of these in the pursuit of some comprehensible goal, yielding constraint, uniqueness, and comprehensibility. A functional goal keeps artists honest, and drives the best design, furnishing an archive of designs that can be mined for other purposes like fashion.

For that reason, the choice of a goal or requirement can, even if completely irrelevant or useless, be a useful design tool by fighting laziness and mediocrity.

“A Stanford Psychologist Says He’s Cracked the Code of One-Hit Wonders: What Separates Blind Melon from Shania Twain?”, Thompson 2022

“A Stanford Psychologist Says He’s Cracked the Code of One-Hit Wonders: What separates Blind Melon from Shania Twain?”⁠, Derek Thompson (2022-04-17; ; backlinks):

In September 1992, the band Blind Melon released their self-titled debut album⁠. The record was mostly ignored until a music video for the song “No Rain”⁠, featuring a girl in glasses dressed as a bumblebee, went berserk on MTV. The song rocketed up the Billboard Hot 100 charts. But that was the last time the band ever struck gold. 2 decades later, Rolling Stone named “No Rain” one of the biggest one-hit wonders of all time.

Soon after Blind Melon topped the charts, another artist had a breakout moment. Shania Twain released her second album, The Woman in Me⁠, which included the No. 1 hit “Any Man of Mine”⁠. Whatever the polar opposite of an one-hit wonder is, that’s what Shania Twain turned out to be. She became one of the most consistent hitmakers of her era, and the only female artist ever with 3 straight albums certified Diamond, meaning more than 10 million copies sold.

…He used an algorithm developed by the company EchoNest to measure the songs’ sonic features, including key, tempo, and danceability. This allowed him to quantify how similar a given hit is to the contemporary popular-music landscape (which he calls “novelty”), and the musical diversity of an artist’s body of work (“variety”).

“Novelty is a double-edged sword”, Berg told me. “Being very different from the mainstream is really, really bad for your likelihood of initially making a hit when you’re not well known. But once you have a hit, novelty suddenly becomes a huge asset that is likely to sustain your success.” Mass audiences are drawn to what’s familiar, but they become loyal to what’s consistently distinct.

Blind Melon’s “No Rain” rated extremely low on novelty in Berg’s research. Dreamy, guitar-driven soft rock wasn’t exactly innovative in 1992. According to Berg, this was the sort of song that was very likely to become an one-hit wonder: It rose to fame because of a quirky music video, not because the song itself stood out for its uniqueness. After that hit, the band struggled to distinguish their sound from everything else that was going on in music.

By contrast, Twain’s breakout hit rated high on novelty in Berg’s research. She was pioneering a new pop-country crossover genre that was bold for her time but would later inspire a generation of artists, like Taylor Swift⁠. “Twain is a great fit for the model, because her blending of pop and country was so original before she had her breakout”, Berg told me. After her second album, he said, her novelty, which had previously been an artistic risk, helped her retain listeners. She could experiment within the kingdom of country-pop without much competition from other artists, and this allowed her to dominate the charts for the next decade.

Berg’s research also found that musical variety (as opposed to novelty) was useful for artists before they broke out. But down the line, variety wasn’t very useful, possibly because audience expectations are set by initial hits. “After the first hit, the research showed that it was good for artists to focus on what I call relatedness, or similarity of music”, he said. Nobody wants Bruce Springsteen to make a rap album.

“One-Hit Wonders versus Hit Makers: Sustaining Success in Creative Industries”, Berg 2022

“One-Hit Wonders versus Hit Makers: Sustaining Success in Creative Industries”⁠, Justin M. Berg (2022-03-24; ):

[media] Creative industries produce many one-hit wonders who struggle to repeat their initial success and fewer hit makers who sustain success over time.

To develop theory on the role of creativity in driving sustained market success, I propose a path dependence theory of creators’ careers that considers creators’ whole portfolios of products over time and how their early portfolios shape their later capacity to sustain success. The main idea is that a creator’s path to sustained success depends on the creativity in their portfolio at the time of their initial hit—relatively creative portfolios give creators more options for leveraging their past portfolios while adapting to market changes, increasing their odds of additional hits.

I tested the proposed theory using an archival study of the U.S. music industry from 1959–2010, including data on over 3 million songs by 69,050 artists.

The results largely support the hypotheses. Artists who reached their initial hits with relatively creative (novel or varied) portfolios were more likely to generate additional hits, but a novel portfolio was less likely to yield an initial hit than was a typical portfolio.

These findings suggest that new creators face a tradeoff between their likelihood of initial versus sustained success, such that building a relatively creative early portfolio is a risky bet that can make or break a creator’s career.

[Keywords: creativity, innovation, careers, path dependence, creative industries, markets, adaptation]

“Typical Decoding for Natural Language Generation”, Meister et al 2022

“Typical Decoding for Natural Language Generation”⁠, Clara Meister, Tiago Pimentel, Gian Wiher, Ryan Cotterell (2022-02-01; ; backlinks; similar):

[see Mirostat] Despite achieving incredibly low perplexities on myriad natural language corpora, today’s language models still often underperform when used to generate text. This dichotomy has puzzled the language generation community for the last few years.

In this work, we posit that the abstraction of natural language as a communication channel (à la Shannon 1948) can provide new insights into the behaviors of probabilistic language generators, eg. why high-probability texts can be dull or repetitive. Humans use language as a means of communicating information, and do so in an efficient yet error-minimizing manner, choosing each word in a string with this (perhaps subconscious) goal in mind.

We propose that generation from probabilistic models should mimic this behavior. Rather than always choosing words from the high-probability region of the distribution—which have a low Shannon information content—we sample from the set of words with an information content close to its expected value⁠, i.e., close to the conditional entropy of our model. This decision criterion can be realized through a simple and efficient implementation, which we call typical sampling. Automatic and human evaluations show that, in comparison to nucleus and top-k sampling, typical sampling offers competitive performance in terms of quality while consistently reducing the number of degenerate repetitions.

“Emotionally Numb: Expertise Dulls Consumer Experience”, Rocklage et al 2021

2021-rocklage.pdf: “Emotionally Numb: Expertise Dulls Consumer Experience”⁠, Matthew D. Rocklage, Derek D. Rucker, Loran F. Nordgren (2021-03-15; ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Expertise provides numerous benefits. Experts process information more efficiently, remember information better, and often make better decisions. Consumers pursue expertise in domains they love and chase experiences that make them feel something. Yet, might becoming an expert carry a cost for these very feelings? Across more than 700,000 consumers and 6 million observations, developing expertise in a hedonic domain predicts consumers becoming more emotionally numb—that is, having less intense emotion in response to their experiences. This numbness occurs across a range of domains—movies, photography, wine, and beer—and across diverse measures of emotion and expertise. It occurs in cross-sectional real-world data with certified experts, and in longitudinal real-world data that follows consumers over time and traces their emotional trajectories as they accrue expertise. Furthermore, this numbness can be explained by the cognitive structure experts develop and apply within a domain. Experimentally inducing cognitive structure led novice consumers to experience greater numbness. However, shifting experts away from using their cognitive structure restored their experience of emotion. Thus, although consumers actively pursue expertise in domains that bring them pleasure, the present work is the first to show that this pursuit can come with a hedonic cost.

“Entropy Trade-offs in Artistic Design: A Case Study of Tamil kolam”, Tran et al 2021

“Entropy trade-offs in artistic design: A case study of Tamil kolam⁠, N.-Han Tran, Timothy Waring, Silke Atmaca, Bret A. Beheim (2021-03-01; ⁠, ; similar):

From an evolutionary perspective, art presents many puzzles. Humans invest substantial effort in generating apparently useless displays that include artworks. These vary greatly from ordinary to intricate. From the perspective of signalling theory, these investments in highly complex artistic designs can reflect information about individuals and their social standing.

Using a large corpus of kolam art from South India (n = 3,139 kolam from 192 women), we test a number of hypotheses about the ways in which social stratification and individual differences affect the complexity of artistic designs.

Consistent with evolutionary signalling theories of constrained optimisation, we find that kolam art tends to occupy a ‘sweet spot’ at which artistic complexity, as measured by Shannon information entropy⁠, remains relatively constant from small to large drawings. This stability is maintained through an observable, apparently unconscious trade-off between 2 standard information-theoretic measures: richness and evenness⁠.

Although these drawings arise in a highly stratified, caste-based society, we do not find strong evidence that artistic complexity is influenced by the caste boundaries of Indian society. Rather, the trade-off is likely due to individual-level aesthetic preferences and differences in skill, dedication and time, as well as the fundamental constraints of human cognition and memory.

[Keywords: art, signalling, entropy⁠, skill, material culture, Bayesian inference]

Kolam drawings are geometric art practised by women in the Kodaikanal region of Tamil Nadu⁠, southern India (Layard 1937). A kolam consists of one or more loops drawn around a grid of dots (in Tamil called pulli). On a typical morning, a Tamil woman will prepare a grid of dots on the threshold of her home, and then draw a kolam with rice powder or chalk. During the day the drawing weathers away, and a new kolam is created the next day. Kolam drawings are historically traditions of matrilines, but more recently are also a topic of cultural education in Tamil schools. Girls in Tamil Nadu begin practising kolam-making from an early age, and competency in this art is considered necessary for the transition into womanhood (Nagarajan 2018, Feeding a thousand souls: Women, ritual, and ecology in India—An exploration of the kolam). Although the primary medium is the threshold of the home, women practice kolam-making in notebooks, and it is common for artists to share, copy and embellish each other’s kolam designs. Such unrestrained artistic exchange is fostered by the fact that kolam designs are not considered to belong to any one person, but rather to be a type of community knowledge (Nagarajan 2018). However, the ability to successfully draw aesthetically pleasing (ie. diverse, complex, large) kolam drawings is said to reflect certain qualities of a woman (eg. her degree of traditionalness or patience), and as such her capacity to run a household and become a good wife and mother (Laine 2013; Nagarajan 2018).

…Here we study the ner pulli nelevu or sikku kolam family because of its unique form. Because sikku kolam drawings represent an unusually strict system of artistic expression, kolam drawings can be mapped onto a small identifiable set of gestures and are therefore well suited to systematic, quantitative analyses as a naturalistic model system of cultural evolution. A given kolam’s gesture sequence can be characterised by a number of informative summary statistics which capture aspects of kolam itself: the sequence length (ie. the total number of gestures), the discrete canvas size (measured by the grid of dots, or pulli), the gesture density per unit canvas area and gesture diversity as measured by evenness (here, the Gini index), richness and Shannon information entropy.

Figure 3: Trade-off between evenness and richness. The grey lines measure maximum entropy isoclines. The raw kolam data are jittered and illustrated in blue (light blue = low density, dark blue = high density). The (90, 75, 50%) kernel density of the average richness and evenness for each canvas size of the data are depicted in the orange area (light orange to dark orange).

“Mirostat: A Neural Text Decoding Algorithm That Directly Controls Perplexity”, Basu et al 2020

“Mirostat: A Neural Text Decoding Algorithm that Directly Controls Perplexity”⁠, Sourya Basu, Govardana Sachitanandam Ramachandran, Nitish Shirish Keskar, Lav R. Varshney (2020-07-29; ; backlinks; similar):

[cf. typical sampling] Neural text decoding is important for generating high-quality texts using language models. To generate high-quality text, popular decoding algorithms like top-k, top-p (nucleus), and temperature-based Boltzmann sampling truncate or distort the unreliable low probability tail of the language model. Though these methods generate high-quality text after parameter tuning, they are ad hoc. Not much is known about the control they provide over the statistics of the output, which is important since recent reports show text quality is highest for a specific range of likelihoods.

Here, first we provide a theoretical analysis of perplexity in top-k, top-p, and temperature sampling, finding that cross-entropy behaves linearly as a function of p in top-p sampling whereas it is a nonlinear function of k in top-k sampling, under Zipfian statistics. We use this analysis to design a feedback-based adaptive top-k text decoding algorithm called Mirostat that generates text (of any length) with a predetermined value of perplexity, and thereby high-quality text without any tuning. Experiments show that for low values of k and p in top-k and top-p sampling, perplexity drops substantially with generated text length, which is also correlated with excessive repetitions in the text (the boredom trap). On the other hand, for large values of k and p, we find that perplexity increases with generated text length, which is correlated with incoherence in the text (confusion trap).

Mirostat avoids both traps: experiments show that cross-entropy has a near-linear relation with repetition in generated text. This relation is almost independent of the sampling method but slightly dependent on the model used. Hence, for a given language model, control over perplexity also gives control over repetitions. Experiments with human raters for fluency, coherence, and quality further verify our findings.

“Stay True to Your Roots? Category Distance, Hierarchy, and the Performance of New Entrants in the Music Industry”, Younkin & Kashkooli 2020

2020-younkin.pdf: “Stay True to Your Roots? Category Distance, Hierarchy, and the Performance of New Entrants in the Music Industry”⁠, Peter Younkin, Keyvan Kashkooli (2020-03-12; ⁠, ):

New entrants in established markets face competing recommendations over whether it is better to establish their legitimacy by conforming to type or to differentiate themselves from incumbents by proposing novel contributions. This dilemma is particularly acute in cultural markets in which demand for novelty and attention to legitimacy are both high. We draw upon research in organizational theory and entrepreneurship to hypothesize the effects of pursuing narrow or broad appeals on the performance of new entrants in the music industry. We propose that the sales of novel products vary with the distance perceived between the classes being combined and that this happens, in part, because combinations that appear to span great distances encourage consumers to adopt superordinate rather than subordinate classes (eg. to classify and evaluate something as a “song” rather than a “country song”). Using a sample of 144 artists introduced to the public via the U.S. television program The Voice, we find evidence of a U-shaped relationship between category distance and consumer response. Specifically, consumers reward new entrants who pursue either familiarity (ie. nonspanning) or distinctive combinations (ie. combine distant genres) but reject efforts that try to balance both goals. An experimental test validates that manipulating the perceived distance an artist spans influences individual evaluations of product quality and the hierarchy of categorization. Together these results provide initial evidence that distant combinations are more likely to be classified using a superordinate category, mitigating the potential confusion and legitimacy-based penalties that affect middle-distance combinations.

“People Prefer Simpler Content When There Are More Choices: A Time Series Analysis of Lyrical Complexity in Six Decades of American Popular Music”, Varnum et al 2019

“People Prefer Simpler Content When There Are More Choices: A Time Series Analysis of Lyrical Complexity in Six Decades of American Popular Music”⁠, Michael E. W. Varnum, Jaimie Krems, Colin Morris, Igor Grossmann (2019-12-10; ):

Song lyrics are rich in meaning. In recent years, the lyrical content of popular songs has been used as an index of shifting norms, affect, and values at the cultural level. One remarkable, recently-uncovered trend is that successful pop songs have increasingly simple lyrics. Why?

We test the idea that increasing lyrical simplicity is linked to a widening array of novel song choices.

To test this Cultural Compression Hypothesis (CCH), we examined 6 decades of popular music (n = 14,661 songs).

The number of novel song choices predicted greater lyrical simplicity of successful songs. This relationship was robust, holding when controlling for critical ecological and demographic factors and also when using a variety of approaches to account for the potentially conconfoundingfluence of temporal autocorrelation⁠.

The present data provide the first time series evidence that real-world cultural transmission may depend on the amount of novel choices in the information landscape.

[Keywords: cultural change, cultural evolution, music]

“The Curious Case of Neural Text Degeneration”, Holtzman et al 2019

“The Curious Case of Neural Text Degeneration”⁠, Ari Holtzman, Jan Buys, Li Du, Maxwell Forbes, Yejin Choi (2019-04-22; ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Despite considerable advancements with deep neural language models, the enigma of neural text degeneration persists when these models are tested as text generators. The counter-intuitive empirical observation is that even though the use of likelihood as training objective leads to high quality models for a broad range of language understanding tasks, using likelihood as a decoding objective leads to text that is bland and strangely repetitive.

In this paper, we reveal surprising distributional differences between human text and machine text. In addition, we find that decoding strategies alone can dramatically effect the quality of machine text, even when generated from exactly the same neural language model. Our findings motivate Nucleus Sampling, a simple but effective method to draw the best out of neural generation. By sampling text from the dynamic nucleus of the probability distribution, which allows for diversity while effectively truncating the less reliable tail of the distribution, the resulting text better demonstrates the quality of human text, yielding enhanced diversity without sacrificing fluency and coherence.

“Accelerating Dynamics of Collective Attention”, Lorenz-Spreen et al 2019

“Accelerating dynamics of collective attention”⁠, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Bjarke Mørch Mønsted, Philipp Hövel, Sune Lehmann (2019-04-15; ; backlinks; similar):

With news pushed to smart phones in real time and social media reactions spreading across the globe in seconds, the public discussion can appear accelerated and temporally fragmented. In longitudinal datasets across various domains, covering multiple decades, we find increasing gradients and shortened periods in the trajectories of how cultural items receive collective attention. Is this the inevitable conclusion of the way information is disseminated and consumed? Our findings support this hypothesis. Using a simple mathematical model of topics competing for finite collective attention, we are able to explain the empirical data remarkably well. Our modeling suggests that the accelerating ups and downs of popular content are driven by increasing production and consumption of content, resulting in a more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources. In the interplay with competition for novelty, this causes growing turnover rates and individual topics receiving shorter intervals of collective attention.

“Fashion and Art Cycles Are Driven by Counter-dominance Signals of Elite Competition: Quantitative Evidence from Music Styles”, Klimek et al 2019

“Fashion and art cycles are driven by counter-dominance signals of elite competition: quantitative evidence from music styles”⁠, Peter Klimek, Robert Kreuzbauer, Stefan Thurner (2019-02-06; ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Human symbol systems such as art and fashion styles emerge from complex social processes that govern the continuous re-organization of modern societies. They provide a signalling scheme that allows members of an elite to distinguish themselves from the rest of society.

Efforts to understand the dynamics of art and fashion cycles have been placed on ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ theories. According to ‘top-down’ theories, elite members signal their superior status by introducing new symbols (eg. fashion styles), which are adopted by low-status groups. In response to this adoption, elite members would need to introduce new symbols to signal their status. According to many ‘bottom-up’ theories, style cycles evolve from lower classes and follow an essentially random pattern. We propose an alternative explanation based on counter-dominance signalling (CDS). In CDS, elite members want others to imitate their symbols; changes only occur when outsider groups successfully challenge the elite by introducing signals that contrast those endorsed by the elite.

We investigate these mechanisms using a dynamic network approach on data containing almost 8 million music albums released between 1956 and 2015. The network systematically quantifies artistic similarities of competing musical styles and their changes over time. We formulate empirical tests for whether new symbols are introduced by current elite members (top-down), randomness (bottom-up) or by peripheral groups through counter-dominance signals. We find clear evidence that CDS drives changes in musical styles.

This provides a quantitative, completely data-driven answer to a century-old debate about the nature of the underlying social dynamics of fashion cycles.

[Keywords: cultural evolution, network analysis, evolutionary dynamics, fashion cycle theory]

“Predictability and Uncertainty in the Pleasure of Music: A Reward for Learning?”, Gold et al 2019

“Predictability and Uncertainty in the Pleasure of Music: A Reward for Learning?”⁠, Benjamin P. Gold, Marcus T. Pearce, Ernest Mas-Herrero, Alain Dagher, Robert J. Zatorre (2019; ; similar):

Music ranks among the greatest human pleasures. It consistently engages the reward system, and converging evidence implies it exploits predictions to do so. Both prediction confirmations and errors are essential for understanding one’s environment, and music offers many of each as it manipulates interacting patterns across multiple timescales. Learning models suggest that a balance of these outcomes (ie. intermediate complexity) optimizes the reduction of uncertainty to rewarding and pleasurable effect. Yet evidence of a similar pattern in music is mixed, hampered by arbitrary measures of complexity. In the present studies, we applied a well-validated information-theoretic model of auditory expectation to systematically measure two key aspects of musical complexity: predictability (operationalized as information content [IC]), and uncertainty (entropy). In Study 1, we evaluated how these properties affect musical preferences in 43 male and female participants; in Study 2, we replicated Study 1 in an independent sample of 27 people and assessed the contribution of veridical predictability by presenting the same stimuli seven times. Both studies revealed significant quadratic effects of IC and entropy on liking that outperformed linear effects, indicating reliable preferences for music of intermediate complexity. An interaction between IC and entropy further suggested preferences for more predictability during more uncertain contexts, which would facilitate uncertainty reduction. Repeating stimuli decreased liking ratings but did not disrupt the preference for intermediate complexity. Together, these findings support long-hypothesized optimal zones of predictability and uncertainty in musical pleasure with formal modeling, relating the pleasure of music listening to the intrinsic reward of learning.

Abstract pleasures, such as music, claim much of our time, energy, and money despite lacking any clear adaptive benefits like food or shelter. Yet as music manipulates patterns of melody, rhythm, and more, it proficiently exploits our expectations. Given the importance of anticipating and adapting to our ever-changing environments, making and evaluating uncertain predictions can have strong emotional effects. Accordingly, we present evidence that listeners consistently prefer music of intermediate predictive complexity, and that preferences shift toward expected musical outcomes in more uncertain contexts. These results are consistent with theories that emphasize the intrinsic reward of learning, both by updating inaccurate predictions and validating accurate ones, which is optimal in environments that present manageable predictive challenges (ie. reducible uncertainty).

“Enjoy It Again: Repeat Experiences Are Less Repetitive Than People Think”, O’Brien 2019

2019-obrien.pdf: “Enjoy it again: Repeat experiences are less repetitive than people think”⁠, E. O’Brien (2019; ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

What would it be like to revisit a museum, restaurant, or city you just visited? To rewatch a movie you just watched? To replay a game you just played? People often have opportunities to repeat hedonic activities.

7 studies (total n = 3,356) suggest that such opportunities may be undervalued: Many repeat experiences are not as dull as they appear.

Studies 1–3 documented the basic effect. All participants first completed a real-world activity once in full (Study 1, museum exhibit; Study 2, movie; Study 3, video game). Then, some predicted their reactions to repeating it whereas others actually repeated it.

Predictors underestimated Experiencers’ enjoyment, even when experienced enjoyment indeed declined.

Studies 4 and 5 compared mechanisms: neglecting the pleasurable byproduct of continued exposure to the same content (eg. fluency) versus neglecting the new content that manifests by virtue of continued exposure (eg. discovery), both of which might dilute uniform dullness.

We found stronger support for the latter: The misprediction was moderated by stimulus complexity (Studies 4 and 5) and mediated by the amount of novelty discovered within the stimulus (Study 5), holding exposure constant.

Doing something once may engender an inflated sense that one has now seen “it”, leaving people naïve to the missed nuances remaining to enjoy.

Studies 6 and 7 highlighted consequences: Participants incurred costs to avoid repeats so to maximize enjoyment, in specific contexts for which repetition would have been as enjoyable (Study 6) or more enjoyable (Study 7) as the provided novel alternative.

These findings warrant a new look at traditional assumptions about hedonic adaptation and novelty preferences. Repetition too could add an unforeseen spice to life.

“What Makes Popular Culture Popular? Product Features and Optimal Differentiation in Music”, Askin & Mauskapf 2017

2017-askin.pdf: “What Makes Popular Culture Popular? Product Features and Optimal Differentiation in Music”⁠, Noah Askin, Michael Mauskapf (2017-09-06; ⁠, ):

In this article, we propose a new explanation for why certain cultural products outperform their peers to achieve widespread success. We argue that products’ position in feature space significantly predicts their popular success.

Using tools from computer science, we construct a novel dataset allowing us to examine whether the musical features of nearly 27,000 songs from Billboard’s Hot 100 charts predict their levels of success in this cultural market. We find that, in addition to artist familiarity, genre affiliation, and institutional support, a song’s perceived proximity to its peers influences its position on the charts. Contrary to the claim that all popular music sounds the same, we find that songs sounding too much like previous and contemporaneous productions—those that are highly typical—are less likely to succeed. Songs exhibiting some degree of optimal differentiation are more likely to rise to the top of the charts.

These findings offer a new perspective on success in cultural markets by specifying how content organizes product competition and audience consumption behavior.

“CAN: Creative Adversarial Networks, Generating "Art" by Learning About Styles and Deviating from Style Norms”, Elgammal et al 2017

“CAN: Creative Adversarial Networks, Generating "Art" by Learning About Styles and Deviating from Style Norms”⁠, Ahmed Elgammal, Bingchen Liu, Mohamed Elhoseiny, Marian Mazzone (2017-06-21; ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

We propose a new system for generating art. The system generates art by looking at art and learning about style; and becomes creative by increasing the arousal potential of the generated art by deviating from the learned styles. We build over Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN), which have shown the ability to learn to generate novel images simulating a given distribution. We argue that such networks are limited in their ability to generate creative products in their original design. We propose modifications to its objective to make it capable of generating creative art by maximizing deviation from established styles and minimizing deviation from art distribution.

We conducted experiments to compare the response of human subjects to the generated art with their response to art created by artists. The results show that human subjects could not distinguish art generated by the proposed system from art generated by contemporary artists and shown in top art fairs. Human subjects even rated the generated images higher on various scales.

“Optimal Distinctiveness Revisited: an Integrative Framework for Understanding the Balance between Differentiation and Conformity in Individual and Organizational Identities”, Zuckerman 2016

2016-zuckerman.pdf: “Optimal Distinctiveness Revisited: an integrative framework for understanding the balance between differentiation and conformity in individual and organizational identities”⁠, Ezra W. Zuckerman (2016-09-01; similar):

This chapter integrates 3 approaches to the question of why successful identities—individual and organizational—generally involve a balance between conformity to others’ practices and differentiation from them.

An entertaining model is employed to highlight the limitations of the “optimal distinctiveness” and the “different audiences” approaches.

A third approach—“two-stage valuation”—is then shown to address these limitations. It is also demonstrated that this approach provides a general foundation for understanding the balance between conformity and differentiation. The advantages of this framework are (a) parsimony, as it requires no unnecessary behavioral assumptions; (b) generality, as it applies at both the individual and organizational levels of analysis and is capable of incorporating the distinctive observations of the other 2 approaches; and (d) extensibility, as it is capable of illuminating outstanding puzzles, such as why closely resembling others may sometimes convey legitimacy but may sometimes be a problematic sign of inauthenticity.

[Keywords: conformity, differentiation, valuation, identity, audience]

“What Does It Mean to Span Cultural Boundaries? Variety and Atypicality in Cultural Consumption”, Goldberg et al 2016

2016-goldberg.pdf: “What Does It Mean to Span Cultural Boundaries? Variety and Atypicality in Cultural Consumption”⁠, Amir Goldberg, Michael T. Hannan, Balázs Kovács (2016-03-04; similar):

We propose a synthesis of two lines of sociological research on boundary spanning in cultural production and consumption. One, research on cultural omnivorousness, analyzes choice by heterogeneous audiences facing an array of crisp cultural offerings. The other, research on categories in markets, analyzes reactions by homogeneous audiences to objects that vary in the degree to which they conform to categorical codes. We develop a model of heterogeneous audiences evaluating objects that vary in typicality. This allows consideration of orientations on two dimensions of cultural preference: variety and typicality. We propose a novel analytic framework to map consumption behavior in these two dimensions. We argue that one audience type, those who value variety and typicality, are especially resistant to objects that span boundaries. We test this argument in an analysis of two large-scale datasets of reviews of films and restaurants.

“Anthony Downs, “Up and Down With Ecology: The ‘Issue-Attention’ Cycle””, Gupta & Jenkins-Smith 2015

2015-gupta.pdf: “Anthony Downs, “Up and Down with Ecology: The ‘Issue-Attention’ Cycle””⁠, Kuhika Gupta, Hank Jenkins-Smith (2015; ; backlinks; similar):

This chapter comments on Anthony Downs’s 1972 seminal paper “Up and Down with Ecology: The ‘Issue-Attention’ Cycle”, which tackles the concept of “public” or “issue” attention. Focusing on domestic policy, particularly environmental policy in the United States, Downs describes a process called “issue-attention cycle”, by which the public gains and loses interest in a particular issue over time. This chapter summarizes studies that directly put Downs’s propositions to the test, laying emphasis on research that probes the existence of and interrelationships among the public attention cycle, media attention cycle, and government attention cycle. It then reviews the main arguments put forward by Downs before concluding with a discussion of promising avenues for future research as well as important theoretical and methodological questions that need further elucidation.

“The Hipster Effect: When Anticonformists All Look the Same”, Touboul 2014

“The hipster effect: When anticonformists all look the same”⁠, Jonathan Touboul (2014-10-29; ; backlinks; similar):

In such different domains as neuroscience, spin glasses, social science, economics and finance, large ensemble of interacting individuals following (mainstream) or opposing (hipsters) to the majority are ubiquitous. In these systems, interactions generally occur after specific delays associated to transport, transmission or integration of information. We investigate here the impact of anti-conformism combined to delays in the emergent dynamics of large populations of mainstreams and hipsters. To this purpose, we introduce a class of simple statistical systems of interacting agents composed of (1) mainstreams and anti-conformists in the presence of (2) delays, possibly heterogeneous, in the transmission of information. In this simple model, each agent can be in one of two states, and can change state in continuous time with a rate depending on the state of others in the past. We express the thermodynamic limit of these systems as the number of agents diverge, and investigate the solutions of the limit equation, with a particular focus on synchronized oscillations induced by delayed interactions. We show that when hipsters are too slow in detecting the trends, they will consistently make the same choice, and realizing this too late, they will switch, all together to another state where they remain alike. Similar synchronizations arise when the impact of mainstreams on hipsters choices (and reciprocally) dominate the impact of other hipsters choices, and we show that these may emerge only when the randomness in the hipsters decisions is sufficiently large. Beyond the choice of the best suit to wear this winter, this study may have important implications in understanding synchronization of nerve cells, investment strategies in finance, or emergent dynamics in social science, domains in which delays of communication and the geometry of information accessibility are prominent.

“Atypical Combinations and Scientific Impact”, Uzzi et al 2013

2013-uzzi.pdf: “Atypical Combinations and Scientific Impact”⁠, Brian Uzzi, Satyam Mukherjee, Michael Stringer, Ben Jones (2013-10-25; similar):

Novelty is an essential feature of creative ideas, yet the building blocks of new ideas are often embodied in existing knowledge. From this perspective, balancing atypical knowledge with conventional knowledge may be critical to the link between innovativeness and impact.

Our analysis of 17.9 million papers spanning all scientific fields suggests that science follows a nearly universal pattern:

The highest-impact science is primarily grounded in exceptionally conventional combinations of prior work yet simultaneously features an intrusion of unusual combinations. Papers of this type were twice as likely to be highly cited works. Novel combinations of prior work are rare, yet teams are 37.7% more likely than solo authors to insert novel combinations into familiar knowledge domains.

Making an Impact: How big a role do unconventional combinations of existing knowledge play in the impact of a scientific paper? To examine this question, Uzzi et al 2013 (p. 468) studied 17.9 million research articles across 5 decades of the Web of Science⁠, the largest repository of scientific research. Scientific work typically appeared to draw on highly conventional, familiar mixtures of knowledge. The highest-impact papers were not the ones that had the greatest novelty, but had a combination of novelty and otherwise conventional combinations of prior work.

“Identifiable but Not Identical: Combining Social Identity and Uniqueness Motives in Choice”, Chan et al 2012

2012-chan.pdf: “Identifiable but Not Identical: Combining Social Identity and Uniqueness Motives in Choice”⁠, Cindy Chan, Jonah Berger, Leaf Van Boven (2012-10-01; similar):

How do consumers reconcile conflicting motives for social group identification and individual uniqueness?

Four studies demonstrate that consumers simultaneously pursue assimilation and differentiation goals on different dimensions of a single choice: they assimilate to their group on one dimension (by conforming on identity-signaling attributes such as brand) while differentiating on another dimension (distinguishing themselves on uniqueness attributes such as color). Desires to communicate social identity lead consumers to conform on choice dimensions that are strongly associated with their group, particularly in identity-relevant consumer categories such as clothing. Higher needs for uniqueness lead consumers to differentiate within groups by choosing less popular options among those that are associated with their group.

By examining both between-group and within-group levels of comparison and using multidimensional decisions, this research provides insight into how multiple identity motives jointly influence consumer choice.

“The Logic of Fashion Cycles”, Acerbi et al 2012

“The Logic of Fashion Cycles”⁠, Alberto Acerbi, Stefano Ghirlanda, Magnus Enquist (2012-01-27; ; backlinks; similar):

Many cultural traits exhibit volatile dynamics, commonly dubbed fashions or fads. Here we show that realistic fashion-like dynamics emerge spontaneously if individuals can copy others’ preferences for cultural traits as well as traits themselves. We demonstrate this dynamics in simple mathematical models of the diffusion, and subsequent abandonment, of a single cultural trait which individuals may or may not prefer. We then simulate the coevolution between many cultural traits and the associated preferences, reproducing power-law frequency distributions of cultural traits (most traits are adopted by few individuals for a short time, and very few by many for a long time), as well as correlations between the rate of increase and the rate of decrease of traits (traits that increase rapidly in popularity are also abandoned quickly and vice versa). We also establish that alternative theories, that fashions result from individuals signaling their social status, or from individuals randomly copying each other, do not satisfactorily reproduce these empirical observations.

“Dear Young Eccentric”, Hanson 2012

“Dear Young Eccentric”⁠, Robin Hanson (2012-01-05; similar):

Weird folks are often tempted to give up on grand ambitions, thinking there is little chance the world will let them succeed. Turns out, however, it isn’t as bad as all that. Especially if your main weirdness is in the realm of ideas…I’ve known some very successful people with quite weird ideas. But these folks mostly keep regular schedules of sleep and bathing. Their dress and hairstyles are modest, they show up on time for meetings, and they finish assignments by deadline. They are willing to pay dues and work on what others think are important for a while, and they have many odd ideas they’d pursue if given a chance, instead of just one overwhelming obsession. They are willing to keep changing fields, careers, and jobs until they find one that works for them…if you are not overtly rebellious, you can get away with a lot of abstract idea rebellion—few folks will even notice such deviations, and fewer still will care. So, ask yourself, do you want to look like a rebel, or do you want to be a rebel?

“Jacks of All Trades and Masters of None: Audiences' Reactions to Spanning Genres in Feature Film Production”, Hsu 2006

2006-hsu.pdf: “Jacks of All Trades and Masters of None: Audiences' Reactions to Spanning Genres in Feature Film Production”⁠, Greta Hsu (2006-09-01; ; similar):

Through analyses of audience reception of U.S.-produced feature film projects from the period 2000–2003, I develop insight into the trade-off assumed in organizational ecology theory between an organization’s niche width and its fitness.

This assumption, termed the principle of allocation, holds that the greater the diversity in regions of resource space targeted by an organization, the lower the organization’s capacity to perform well within them.

Using data at both the professional critic and consumer levels, I demonstrate the empirical validity of this principle: films targeting more genres attract larger audiences but are less appealing to those audience members. Moreover, I find that audiences’ perceptions of a film’s fit with targeted genres drive this trade-off, as multi-genre films are difficult for audiences to make sense of, leading to poor fit with tastes and lowered appeal.

These findings highlight the key role audiences’ perceptions play in the trade-offs associated with different niche strategies.

“Endogenous Explanation in the Sociology of Culture”, Kaufman 2004

2004-kaufman.pdf: “Endogenous Explanation in the Sociology of Culture”⁠, Jason Kaufman (2004-01-01; )

“Cultural Entrepreneurship: Stories, Legitimacy, and the Acquisition of Resources”, Lounsbury & Glynn 2001

2001-lounsbury.pdf: “Cultural entrepreneurship: stories, legitimacy, and the acquisition of resources”⁠, Michael Lounsbury, Mary Ann Glynn (2001-06-06; ; similar):

We define ‘cultural entrepreneurship’ as the process of storytelling that mediates between extant stocks of entrepreneurial resources and subsequent capital acquisition and wealth creation.

We propose a framework that focuses on how entrepreneurial stories facilitate the crafting of a new venture identity that serves as a touchstone upon which legitimacy may be conferred by investors, competitors, and consumers, opening up access to new capital and market opportunities. Stories help create competitive advantage for entrepreneurs through focal content shaped by 2 key forms of entrepreneurial capital: firm-specific resource capital and industry-level institutional capital.

We illustrate our ideas with anecdotal entrepreneurial stories that range from contemporary high-technology accounts to the evolution of the mutual fund industry.

Propositions are offered to guide future empirical research based on our framework. Theoretically, we aim to extend recent efforts to synthesize strategic and institutional perspectives by incorporating insights from contemporary approaches to culture and organizational identity.

“Subjective Complexity, Familiarity, and Liking for Popular Music”, North & Hargreaves 1995

1995-hargreaves.pdf: “Subjective complexity, familiarity, and liking for popular music”⁠, Adrian C. North, David J. Hargreaves (1995; ; similar):

The optimal complexity and preference-feedback hypotheses make specific predictions about the effects of stimulus familiarity and subjective complexity on liking for music excerpts.

This study investigated the relationships between each of these 3 variables within the same experimental design. 75 undergraduates rated 60 excerpts of contemporary popular music for liking, subjective complexity, or familiarity.

Results: strongly supported the predictions of the 2 models, indicating a positive relationship between liking and familiarity, and an inverted-U relationship between liking and subjective complexity.

The observed relationship between familiarity and subjective complexity was more difficult to predict and explain, although there was some evidence that this relationship might best be described as an inverted-U function. The different relationships of these 2 variables with liking are explained in terms of subjective complexity being related to objective properties of the stimuli, and familiarity being determined by cultural exposure and subjects’ own volition.

“The Social Self: On Being the Same and Different at the Same Time”, Brewer 1991

1991-brewer.pdf: “The Social Self: On Being the Same and Different at the Same Time”⁠, Marilynn B. Brewer (1991-10-01; ; similar):

Most of social psychology’s theories of the self fail to take into account the importance of social identification in the definition of self. Social identities are self-definitions that are more inclusive than the individuated self-concept of most American psychology.

A model of optimal distinctiveness is proposed in which social identity is viewed as a reconciliation of opposing needs for assimilation and differentiation from others. According to this model, individuals avoid self-construals that are either too personalized or too inclusive and instead define themselves in terms of distinctive category memberships. Social identity and group loyalty are hypothesized to be strongest for those self-categorizations that simultaneously provide for a sense of belonging and a sense of distinctiveness.

Results: from an initial laboratory experiment support the prediction that depersonalization and group size interact as determinants of the strength of social identification.

“Development of Liking for Familiar and Unfamiliar Melodies”, Hargreaves & Castell 1987

1987-hargreaves.pdf: “Development of Liking for Familiar and Unfamiliar Melodies”⁠, David J. Hargreaves, Kate C. Castell (1987; ; similar):

Subjects aged 4–5 yrs, 6–7 yrs, 8–9 yrs, 10–11 yrs, 13–14 yrs, and 18 yrs or older (n = 16 per group) were asked to rate 5 tone sequences in each of 4 categories: familiar or unfamiliar melodies and near or far approximations to music.

Data show that familiar melodies were best liked, followed by unfamiliar melodies, near approximations, and far approximations. There was an overall decline in liking for the stimuli with age.

…In summary, liking ratings for familiar and unfamiliar real-life melodies were obtained which were consistent with the hypothesized inverted-U relationship between liking and familiarity, with age representing the latter. The results were consistent with the hypothesis that the peak of the inverted U would occur at a later age for unfamiliar than for familiar melodies. The pattern of ratings obtained for the statistical approximations to music was also consistent with the inverted-U hypothesis: liking was an inverse function of age for these stimuli, and it was argued that this was because the extent to which they appeared unfamiliar when compared with the other melodies increased with age. No difference was found between ratings given to the 2 types of statistical approximation to music. In general terms, these results provide further support for the “optimum complexity” model of musical preference.

“The Effects of Repetition on Liking for Music”, Hargreaves 1984

1984-hargreaves.pdf: “The Effects of Repetition on Liking for Music”⁠, David J. Hargreaves (1984-04-01; ; similar):

An inverted-U theory of the relationship between the subjective complexity of and liking for different musical pieces was developed. The theory was then used to derive some predictions about the effects of repetition on liking for pieces of music of different styles chosen to represent contrasting levels of objective complexity. These predictions were tested in two experiments. The first experiment was a short time-scale study in which two pieces (“easy-listening” music and avant-garde jazz) were played to subjects three times during a single session. The second experiment involved repetition over 3 weekly sessions, as well as four times within sessions, of three pieces (popular, classical, and avant-garde jazz). The results of both experiments were interpreted as broadly supporting the inverted-U model although there were some surprising exceptions. These exceptions occurred when functions relating familiarity and liking were compared between musical styles, and they were tentatively explained in terms of attitudinal stereotyping.

“Novelty and Human Aesthetic Preferences”, Sluckin et al 1983

1983-sluckin.pdf: “Novelty and human aesthetic preferences”⁠, Wladyslaw Sluckin, David J. Hargreaves, Andrew M. Colman (1983; ⁠, ⁠, ; backlinks; similar):

Much of the so-called new experimental aesthetics is concerned with liking as a function of novelty/​familiarity.

The mere-exposure hypothesis, suggesting that liking is the result of ‘mere repeated exposure’ of the individual to the stimulus, is critically discussed.

The view is then considered that, more generally, the relationship between novelty/​familiarity and liking takes the form of an inverted U. Theories purporting to explain this relationship are then briefly described. Next, our own experiments on letters, words and surnames, which show results consistent with the inverted-U function are reported.

However, for a certain category of stimuli, where the preference-feedback effect is in evidence, the relationship between novelty/​familiarity and liking is more like a positive rectilinear one. This is well illustrated by our findings concerning preferences for Christian names.

This brings us to the topic of vogues. A survey of studies of aesthetic appreciation of music highlights, among other features, the presence of cycles of fashion of varying periodicities.

The chapter ends up with some tentative general conclusions about aesthetic preferences in relation to novelty.

“Some Experimental Studies of Familiarity and Liking”, Sluckin et al 1982

1982-sluckin.pdf: “Some experimental studies of familiarity and liking”⁠, Wladyslaw Sluckin, David J. Hargreaves, Andrew M. Colman (1982; ; similar):

The authors discuss special features of their studies of human likes and dislikes, summarize previous findings, and outline new perspectives in experimental aesthetics.

Previous research has emphasized the relationship between the familiarity of objects and people’s liking for them. A design feature that distinguishes the author’s work from other studies is the use of subjective, rather than objective, measures of familiarity.

Studies reviewed include those concerning letters, syllables, and words; names and preference feedback; and appreciation of music.

“Liking Words As a Function of the Experienced Frequency of Their Occurrence”, Sluckin et al 1980

1980-sluckin.pdf: “Liking words as a function of the experienced frequency of their occurrence”⁠, Wladyslaw Sluckin, Andrew M. Colman, David J. Hargreaves (1980-02; similar):

A hypothetical inverted-U curve is postulated linking liking of stimuli to familiarity with them.

An experiment using a special procedure was carried out in which the relationship was investigated for words, ranging from very unfamiliar to very familiar, between favorability and familiarity.

The results conformed to the theoretical curve.

This indicated that the positive correlation between the variables reported by several researchers (eg. Zajonc) and the negative correlation found by others (eg. Cantor) should be regarded as complementary rather than contradictory.

…When the stimulus words were roughly split into 2 groups, the relatively unfamiliar and the relatively familiar, liking was found to be positively related to familiarity in the former case (as in Zajonc-type studies) and negatively related to familiarity in the latter case (as in Cantor-type studies). The function that properly fitted the familiarity-favorability relationship over the full range of the familiarity variable was found to be curvilinear, first rising and then falling. Thus the result contained both the Zajonc-type and the Cantor-type effects, showing them to be complementary rather than contradictory. We undoubtedly achieved this by using a very wide spread of the independent variable; and this was made possible by the particular experimental procedure adopted.

“Psychological Factors Affecting Preferences for First Names”, Colman et al 1980

1980-colman.pdf: “Psychological Factors Affecting Preferences for First Names”⁠, Andrew M. Colman, David J. Hargreaves, Wladyslaw Sluckin (1980; similar):

Anecdotal and anthropological evidence suggests that personal names are of considerable psychological importance, but they have not received much attention from psychologists. The relationship between the familiarity of first names and the degree to which they are liked is of particular interest from the point of view of research in related areas of experimental aesthetics.

Evidence from investigations carried out in England and Australia suggests that there is a strong tendency for first names to be liked in direct proportion to their familiarity: in general, the most familiar names tend to be best liked and the least familiar names to be most strongly disliked.

These findings are discussed in relation to previous research into familiarity and liking for letters of the alphabet and words, and a hypothesis is developed which may account for the cyclical vogues in first names and certain other cultural objects.

“Up and down With Ecology—the ‘issue-attention Cycle’”, Downs 1972

1972-downs.pdf: “Up and down with ecology—the ‘issue-attention cycle’”⁠, Anthony Downs (1972; ; backlinks; similar):

American public attention rarely remains sharply focused upon any one domestic issue for very long—even if it involves a continuing problem of crucial importance to society. Instead, a systematic “issue-attention cycle” seems strongly to influence public attitudes and behavior concerning most key domestic problems. Each of these problems suddenly leaps into prominence, remains there for a short time, and then—though still largely unresolved—gradually fades from the center of public attention. A study of the way this cycle operates provides insights into how long public attention is likely to remain sufficiently focused upon any given issue to generate enough political pressure to cause effective change.

The shaping of American attitudes toward improving the quality of our environment provides both an example and a potential test of this “issue-attention cycle.” In the past few years, there has been a remarkably widespread upsurge of interest in the quality of our environment. This change in public attitudes has been much faster than any changes in the environment itself. What has caused this shift in public attention? Why did this issue suddenly assume so high a priority among our domestic concerns? And how long will the American public sustain high-intensity interest in ecological matters? I believe that answers to these questions analyzing the “issue-attention cycle.”

The dynamics of the “issue-attention cycle”

Public perception of most “crises” in American domestic life does not reflect changes in real conditions as much as it reflects the operation of a systematic cycle of heightening public interest and then increasing boredom with major issues. This “issue-attention cycle” is rooted both in the nature of certain domestic problems and in the way major communications media interact with the public. The cycle itself has five stages, which may vary in duration depending upon the particular issue involved, but which almost always occur in the following sequence:

  1. The pre-problem stage…
  2. Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm…
  3. Realizing the cost of substantial progress…
  4. Gradual decline of intense public interest…
  5. The post-problem stage…

“The Creative Personality and the Ideal Pupil”, Torrance 1969

1969-torrance.pdf: “The Creative Personality and the Ideal Pupil”⁠, E. Paul Torrance (1969-01-01; ; backlinks)

Theories of humor § Incongruous juxtaposition theory




Mere-exposure effect


Jürgen Schmidhuber


Idiosyncrasy credit


Daniel Berlyne


Creative synthesis


Catholic Church in England and Wales § Converts