thoughts on studies of trends of communities

I sent this email to the vlogtheory yahoogroups list, posting here to keep track of it.

Hi everyone, to change the topic slightly, and I'm not sure if it's really videoblogging theory or related per se, but one thing I like to notice is the changing moods and behaviours of when different technologies or interests are taken up. I've never done actual studies on it, so my thoughts are purely from observations, but I've seen it happen across many fields. do you know what academic studies there might be on these things?

basically what I'm talking about is watching the curve of the hype as people get interested in a new system, eg videoblogging, then over time seeing how their interest either remains or starts to fade. I noticed it changing again today which is a little earlier than other trends after reading some of the 'burn out' / take a break thread emails (I can't keep up with all the VBG emails due to volume & available time so there may be other examples). actually a chart/cluster diagram would be useful in describing it if I'm not doing that coherently enough.

obviously it's a natural thing for people's interest to change over time and according to responses either externally or internally to their involvement. but I've seen it in many communities both online and not. I find it interesting as there's always a few who stay for the long trip, lots who come and go and some who just try it out once or twice. happens in music communities (down to sub-genre level within the community), arts collectives, online mail lists and I definitely saw it in the internet radio community I used to work with also. I also love to see people get really passionate about things - some to the point of obsessiveness (record digging comes to mind). eventually people tend to get a bit jaded then they stop the activity. I think videoblogging, especially the personal videoblogging content producers might suffer this earlier due to the personal nature of their work and responses to their work as feelings get hurt. it will be interesting to see how many of the personal videoblogs are still around in say 5-10 years (though they'll likely be replaced by some other system by then), or if it's just a continual stream of new people topping up the number of personal videoblogs out there whilst early ones drop off for any number of reasons. this is looking at it from a slightly different perspective - not counting the acutal number of personal videoblogs, but monitoring individual blogs and monitoring their lifespan so to speak. from observations on other systems, it's the ones who can make it financially viable that are generally the longrunners, though it becomes 'work' rather than what it originally started as, even though they still enjoy doing it. and also the people who move more slowly & constantly through the system, perhaps contributing less or on a more occasional basis compared to the higher output/short term contributors, but who still like to keep their finger in the pie so to speak.

have others here noticed this also with communities you've been involved with. is it something used in academic worlds? (I always studied IT/eng so never came across it, but perhaps I just never looked in the right place)

anyway, just something that came to mind whilst browsing emails on a sat morning.


a reply from Enric with great links to chase up: hopefully he won't mind me posting it here.

You are referring to near term information, Kath. However, related to
this for long term analysis, Ray Kurzweil and his group have been
studying, graphing and analyzing technology for over seven years now.
Kurzweil's book, "The Singularity is Near" shows data, graphs,
stastics, conclusions and projections from these studies.

I found them fascinating and enlightening. One of the interesting
findings is that people have difficulty predicting when a technology
will become prevalent. Humans tend to see technological pace occuring
linearly while it operates exponentialy. So the predictions are too
soon (e.g., the boom) and too late (e.g., Film Studios
dismissing TV as a fad.)

Article related to the book:

Current articles and news:

Graphs and charts from data with projections:

Video of Ray's keynote presentation at Extro-5 in 2001


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