Case Study 3: GHE20G0TH1K is going nowhere fast

GHE20G0TH1K is a tiny trend.

It’s not the future. It’s not even a future. It is a community of enthusiasm that started small and will stay small.

I came across it by accident. What, I wondered, is this? How did someone make “ghetto” and “gothic” go together.

It was one of the favorite conceits of the Complex Systems crowd that in a world of true dynamism a butterfly can flap its wings in the Philippines and eventually there’s a hurricane in Hawaii.

GHE20G0TH1K is not a butterfly. Like millions of trends, it will “eddie” out. Think of the ripples (aka eddies) we create when we throw a rock in a pool. For a very brief moment, order emerges. A wave runs outwards in all directions from the point of impact.

But almost immediately the eddie is extinguished. There wasn’t enough oomph there to help it get to Tsunami status. (Tsunami status is every eddie’s dream.) And there are other activities taking place on the surface of the pool. These “push back” and, hankies out, our eddie dies.

Most things eddie out. Almost everything eddie’s out. Unlike trend-watching in the 1950s when there were relatively few contenders for the “next new thing,” today there are many thousands.

This means three things:

1. We have to cast the net wide. There are lots and lots of trend candidates out there.

2. We need great pattern recognition skills that allow us to separate noise from signal.

3. Perhaps most important, we need metrics that help us perform steps 1 and 2, to survey and sort.

I scratched my head for a way to spot and measure GHE20G0TH1K.

Spotify had helped me see GHE20G0TH1K in the first place. And I was thrilled to see that it also supplies a metric.

These data are positively talkative data. They tell us GHE20G0TH1K is almost completely stationary.

-March 26, 2018: there were 51 followers.
-October 20, 2019: this number soars to 52 followers.
-August 22, 2020: 91 followers.
-August 24, 2020: 93 followers.

And, yes, sure, there must be other, better measures. But in these early days of M-T-F, we are data opportunists (aka data scavengers), using whatever we can find.

Still, and my unforgivably sneering tone aside, we want to audition lots of candidates because in the early days most things will look like GHE20G0TH1K.

Published by Grant McCracken

I am an anthropologist who studies American culture. Some of my books: Dark Value, Culturematic, Chief Culture Officer and Transformations: identity construction in contemporary culture. I've taught at Harvard Business School and MIT. I am a self funding anthropologist. I spent half the year writing and half the year consulting.

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