Is the Tipping Point Toast?

Clive Thompson, Fast Company, Jan 28, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is a very good article highlighting a matter of importance in communications and network theory. Following authors like Malcolm Gladwell, many people think that networks contain small numbers of 'influencers' who create and propagate trends. Advertisers work very hard to tap into these people, and more than a few writers and educators try to become one of these people. But such people have much less impact on the creation and spread of trends that is supposed, argues Duncan J. Watts. His models of network behaviour show that a message can just as easily circumvent one of these hubs, meaning that the hub is not necessary to transmit the message - and hence is not necessary to create or spread the trend. In fact, says Watts, you can't engineer the trends - when society is ready for a trend, it will spread, no matter where it originated.
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