Celebrity culture versus, you know, actual important stuff (or #AIS)

Not specifically about science literacy, but more about just what inhabits a person's brain space at a given moment, and how that can lead to a sad degree of ignorance in world affairs.

I was mulling over this, when watching a television program called the "Long Way Down" about two motorcyclists (Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman) touring from the northern tip of Scotland to the southern tip of South Africa. It's a great show, where a lot of the focus of the programming was on their experiences in the African countries they rode through. There was one segment in particular that was really quite thought provoking, in that they visited a memorial site for the Rwandan Genocide and then asked their fixer (the Rwandan local guiding them through the country) to comment on what he thought about the lack of response from the international community. It was here, that the fellow brought up an issue of timing of when it occurred: things like the brutal killings happened the day after Kirk Cobain died, which greatly dampened the world's attention to the event.

I couldn't help thinking whether the kinetics of celebrity culture does this sort of thing often - as in undermine real important events to the point where there is possibly real effects.

Something similar happened more recently as well. Here, take a peek at this:


What you're seeing here is a google trend analysis of "interest" (as determined by number of google searches done) during the Iran election versus the death of Michael Jackson. Specifically, this graph is checking for search trends for the keywords "Iran Election" versus "Michael Jackson."

Obviously, there's more volume for Michael Jackson, although that's mainly because more people would be looking up stuff about him generally. However, you do easily see the huge spike in interest once news of his death was reported.

It's this second graph that's kind of illuminating:


This is basically the same data except filtered only for searches done in Iran. Here, you can see the flip flop in "interest" clearly, and this is in the country where the election was taking place! Now, technically, the news about the Iran election (especially where the story was reporting on social networking tools) peaked about a week before the death of Michael Jackson, but it still makes me wonder on how much effect these celebrity news bulletins have on a public's general sense of what's going on in the world. You know, the actual important stuff.

I wonder what kind of things lost out when Jon and Kate publicly announced their divorce, when Kanye West did his thing on the MTV awards, when the trailer for New Moon hit the web...

What would be cool, is to try and arrange an "actual important stuff" buzz on the places like twitter or other social networking tools, where I'm guessing a lot of these bulletins get first noticed. Wouldn't it be lovely if a #AIS is always on Twitter's trending topics? Maybe this will allow folks to make a mental choice of something to the effect of, "O.K. enough Jon and Kate - what actual important stuff is going on right now?" I mean right now, the trending topics are hardly promising... (only the H1N1 strikes a chord, and it's kind of sad that it's at number ten, roundly beaten by a bow wow thing).

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And it was a celebrity who directed you attention to this phenomenon. Ewan Gordon McGregor (pronounced /ËjuËÉn mÉËÉ¡rÉÉ¡Ér/; born 31 March 1971)[1] is a Scottish actor, singer, and adventurer who has had success in mainstream, indie and art house films. He is perhaps best known for his role as Mark Renton in the 1996 film Trainspotting, his portrayal of the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and his role as the romantic penniless writer Christian in the 2001 film Moulin Rouge!

Oh the irony! Let's hope Bow Wow (whatever that may be) is doing something useful as well.

WTF? The internets was on fire for Iran. On twitter and facebook there was a stunning amount of attention paid to the Iranian election. It was only after a few days of Twitter reporting that the main stream papers caught on, With the exception of the Beeb and Al Jazeera which actually do real reporting every so often.
The Beeb and Al Jazeera had to go it alone on the Uighur riots in Xinxiang, though. Not even twitter really gave a crap about that, which is sad. The complete lack of reporting on that in the blogosphere or in the American media is an even bigger tragedy than the Iranian election, which at least got the louder activists fired up.

scrabcake - I think heard about the Uighur riots on NPR and Daily Show. I feel like it showed up on Google News as well.

By considering persons brain space at a given moment and how that cal lead to a sad degree to ignore in world affairs.This can define varies ways since and through universal truth why person become sad mode to much of desire the world is not good for desire more than that if the person could reduce not a desire what ever more than that person can live without sad however through the analytical of trends with so many occasion social net work also one of best marketing strategic no doubt by considering in put,out put and outcome
to world some tining has to reduce

Yes, twitter kicked ass for bringing attention to the Iran election, but the point here is that the moment that Michael Jackson died, all attention shifted away. There's still the aftermath of the election results, but do we hear about that now?