Tag Archives: trends

Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction: A Non-Fiction Review

cover art for Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction by Derek ThompsonWhat takes a song from a moderately enjoyable earworm to an unavoidable hit? How does a movie go from a solid screenplay to a worldwide phenomenon? In an age of social media saturation can any content ever really go “viral”? Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in the Age of Distraction (2017) by Derek Thompson endeavors to answer some of these questions.

Hit Makers explores what makes a hit with surprising results as he examines how exposure, familiarity, and other factors play into the often ineffable quality of popular appeal.

In chapters themed around popular music, movies, and television Thompson examines various sensations from their inception to the moment they were decidedly a hit. Examples include how “School House Rock” went from a middling B-Side song to the defining song of a generation thanks to one nine-year-old’s music collection, the origin story like legend surrounding Star Wars, and how one writer of Twilight fanfic managed to tap into the zeitgeist and create a sensation of her own.

This book is at its best when Thompson is sharing stories instead of disseminating theories and facts although those are just as fascinating to learn. Some gems include the exposure effect (being the right thing and being seen), fluency vs. disfluency (as it relates to people wanting to be shocked while simultaneously gravitating toward what they already know), as well as the principle of striving for the most advanced yet acceptable outcome in all things. There are a lot of interesting takeaways here although the ultimate lesson remains that culture is chaos and there’s no good or consistent way to predict a hit.

Hit Makers is approachable nonfiction at its best and a must read for anyone with more than a passing interest in pop culture. Recommended.

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So Yesterday: A Review

“We are all around you.

“You don’t think about us much because we are invisible. Well, not exactly invisible. A lot of us have hair dyed in four colors, or wear five-inch platform sneakers, or carry enough metal in our skin that it’s a hassle getting on an airplane. Quite visible, actually, come to think of it.

“But we don’t wear signs saying what we are. After all, if you knew what we were up to, we couldn’t work our magic. We have to observe carefully and push and prompt you in ways you don’t notice. Like good teachers, we let you think you discovered the truth on your own.

“And you need us. Someone has to guide you, to mold you, to make sure that today turns to yesterday on schedule. Because frankly, without us to monitor the situation, who knows what would get crammed down your throats?

“It’s not like you can just start making your own decisions, after all.”

So Yesterday by Scott WesterfeldHunter Braque is always on top of the latest trends. Mostly because he helps make sure they become trends. As a seventeen-year-old with his own background in the whirlwind world of innovation and style, Hunter knows exactly how to spot Innovators–the people who do something before it’s cool. The people who define cool.

When Hunter’s best client disappears it will take all of his connections to track her down as he teams up with an Innovator, uncovers a mystery surrounding the coolest sneakers he’s ever seen and gets to the bottom of the shadowy world that lurks behind all of the trends and innovations in So Yesterday (2004) by Scott Westerfeld.

So Yesterday is generally grouped into Westerfeld’s New York Trilogy which is not actually a trilogy. It’s one of his earlier novels, set in New York City and also a rare non-fantasy title. (The other books in this “trilogy” are the vampire-apocalyptic books Peeps and The Last Days.)

Although this book is a departure for Westerfeld’s usual fare of science fiction and fantasy adventures, the prose is still decidedly his with the expected blend of wit and trivia along with excellent turns of phrase. (True story: One of my all-time favorite quotes is from this book!)

Hunter is understandably interested in trends so the book is filled with odd bits of information about the origins of ties, or more specifically cravats, among other things. And don’t let the realistic setting fool you–there is still tons of action to be had as Hunter chases down sneakers, avoids thugs and seeks help from shady figures with names like Futura Garamond (another true story: This book introduced me to both of those font faces which I now use all the time!).

So Yesterday is a fast, strange book that readers who enjoy sardonic humor, New York City, or the stories behind the latest It Thing (or all of those at the same time!) is sure to enjoy.

Possible Pairings: The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Proxy by Alex London, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, Vicious by V. E. Schwab