Clickbait and Virality Are Creating a New Science of Internet Trends
Clickbait and viral content may be fascinating or annoying depending on your perspective as an e-consumer, but to internet researchers the phenomenon is the stuff of scientific wonder.
Clickbait is brilliant. Clickbait is annoying. Clickbait is the future. Clickbait must die.
Whatever your opinion on the ubiquity of BuzzFeed-esque headlines or the recent influx of made-to-go-viral content, you have to admit that there's something fascinating about clickbait. It's certainly caught the eyes of the folks over at MIT Technology Review, where a post went up this week detailing the fledgling science of virality. The question at the heart of this emerging study:
"What is the difference between stories that become viral and those that don’t?"
The article explores one possible answer: emotional response. Focus is placed on the work of two researchers — Marco Guerini at Trento Rise in Italy and Jacopo Staiano at Sorbonne Université in Paris — who are working to examine the psychology behind viral content, specifically which emotions ought content-creators appeal to in order to earn the most exposure:
"Psychologists have long categorized emotion using a three-dimensional scale known as the Valence-Arousal-Dominance model. The idea is that each emotion has a valence, whether positive or negative and a level of arousal, which is high for emotions such as anger and low for emotions like sadness. ... Guerini and Staiano say that posts generate more comments when they are associated with emotions of high arousal, such as happiness and anger, and with emotions where people feel less in control, such as fear and sadness.
By contrast, posts generate more social votes when associated with emotions people feel more in control of, such as inspiration."
Guerini and Staiano represent but a small portion of the greater scientific community developing methods for analyzing virality. Their research has practical applications with regard to internet marketing. It's also somewhat captivating to explore the inner machinations of emerging trends playing out right in front of our eyes.
Below, Big Think expert Scott Galloway explains the process through which viral content spreads:
Read more at MIT Technology Review.
Photo credit: View Apart / Shutterstock
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.
- While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
- We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
- Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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