Forget 15 minutes of fame. Researchers at Google have concluded today’s stars don’t dim quite so quickly, thanks to sites likes Twitter.
A group of researchers from Google, eBay and Berkeley University have been studying the famous and wanted to know how fame had changed over the past two and a half centuries.
They suspected that thanks to social media and 24-hour rolling news, fame today would be far more fleeting.
But how to set about measuring fame? The researchers, led by Alex Fabrikant of Google Research, alighted upon a pair of measurements: the likelihood a reader might read a news article at random and find their name mentioned in it; and the period around which that name continues to appear in news stories.
They also accounted for those that appeared genuinely famous – either by a large volume of mentions or a long-lasting series of mentions. Luckily for them, to help with this they had access to Google’s digitized news archive, which stretches back 250 years.
The researchers then set about using tools to pick out people’s names from this vast archive – some of which is stored as digital content, while a huge proportion is generated from optical character recognition tools being applied to microfilm.
Up until the 1940s, the researchers predictions appeared to be correct: there was a gradual decline in the length of time people stayed in the news.
But following the Second World War, the researchers detected a complete volte face.
“Over the course of 70 years, through a world war, a global depression, a two order of magnitude growth in (available) media volume, and a technological curve moving from party-line telephones to satellites and Twitter, both of our fame duration metrics showed that neither the typical person in the news, nor the most famous, experienced any statistically signiﬁcant decrease in fame durations,” the report explained.
What’s more, after 1940, those people that were famous appeared to stay famous for a longer time than previously.
This article was originally published on V3.