Diffusion and the Pop Song

September 29, 2012

(cross-posted here)
I just completed Gabriel Rossman‘s Climbing the Charts: What Radio Airplay Tells Us about the Diffusion of Innovation. Basically the question at the heart of the book is what makes a song (or songs in general) popular? As with Fabio Rojas’s take on it, I found the book really interesting, enjoyable to think through and useful to think with. He summarizes one aspect i especially liked about the book:

Rossman has a simple, but powerful, idea. The different stories imply different diffusion curves (graphs that map market saturation vs. time). Each story comes with a different curve. The “lightning in a bottle” story (hot songs diffuse through market networks) has a classical S-shaped curve. Promotion by the record industry has a discontinuous step function…

I agree that’s one of the particular strengths of the book. I also think it’s readily teachable, and will likely make an appearance in a future iteration of intro and/or my undergrad networks class. I have only a couple of minor quibbles with it, which largely stem from my not being in the sociology of culture inner-circle, and may be readily apparent to those who are.

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Calling all Demographers

September 17, 2012

Double posted from here.

So, i’m fiddling with some citation data for a few Demography journals,* and came up with a couple of weird data points that i can’t account for, so thought i’d see what teh intertubes could tell me about it. Basically, early in the process of working with this sort of data, I like to take a look at “Citation Age” information.** This gives a sense of how old the literature is that people are drawing on in a given time period. These often roughly follow linear increases (though the rate of “aging” differs across fields). Anyway,  this one presented a couple of pretty extreme outliers (i’ve done this more than just a couple of times, and haven’t seen others this different). I can’t account for them, so am looking for any potential explanations.

Unfortunately the data isn’t currently in a format that would let me actually “solve” what’s accounting for this, but i should be able to soon, so it could be fun to see whose/which theories hold up. Anyway, if looking at this information by year, 1988 and 1991 are considerable outliers (see the plot after the jump). It would appear that most of the “blip” in 1988 comes from increased citations to work roughly 50 years before, while the one in 1991 comes from citations to work roughly 70 years earlier. Given that i’m not a “full fledged” demographer (training-wise), i’m guessing others of you might be able to help me out here. What happened in 1988 that led people to suddenly read/cite work from the 1930s and from 1991 to suddenly read things from the 1920s***? All potential explanations welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

The Role of the Federal Reserve

September 15, 2012

Most educated people have no idea how important the Fed is.  I’m not the best guy to explain it to you, but since not everyone reads Paul Krugman, let alone Scott Sumner, I should say something…

These past few years we’ve really really needed a bit more inflation and its finally coming.  Ben Bernanke recently announced that the Fed will finally do more to juice the economy.  This NyTimes article about it gives too much space to the “conventional wisdom,” and pays too little attention to the economists who have been, for years now, arguing that the Fed should be more active.  While not everyone agrees about the desirability of quantitative easing, the ranks of QE3 supporters have been growing and they include a diverse bunch: conservatives and liberals, monetarists and Keynesians of various stripes: Paul Krugman and Brad Delong,  Tyler Cowen and Scott Sumner.

Glass half-full: I think the Fed has just given us a big nudge towards better times.

Glass half-empty: A lot of people are hurting in this economy, and its incredibly sad that the Fed didn’t do more sooner to help.  This is arguably the most under-reported story of the recession.  It didn’t have to be this bad.