Authors@Google: Elizabeth Currid-Halkett

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 24.12.2010

>>Julie Wiskirchen: Hello everybody, I'm Julie Wiskirchen from the Authors at Google team
here in Santa Monica. And today I'm excited to welcome Elizabeth Currid-Halkett. She is
the author of The Warhol Economy and an Assistant Professor at USC School of Policy, Planning,
and Development.
She holds a Ph.D. in urban planning from Columbia University and teaches courses in economic
development and urban policy and planning.
Her research in economic, is in economic development with a particular focus on art and cultural
And today she's gonna be discussing her new book, Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity.
So please join me in welcoming Elizabeth Currid-Halkett.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Well, thank you all for-for coming in and-and listening to
my-my talk on my new research, the new book.
I'm going to divide it, this talk up into three parts.
The first is I'm just gonna explain why a-a professor at USC who has a Ph.D. in urban
planning would write a book on celebrity.
The-the second thing I want to do is-is do a bit of a reading so that you get a sense
of the context.
And then the third because this is Google and you not only did I use Google data in
my research, but you guys study, you love data like you like to drink water, and so
I thought I would, I would share with you some of the ways in which I quantitatively
got at this somewhat nebulous phenomenon of celebrity.
So first of all why-why study celebrity?
In my, in my first book I studied the art and culture industries in New York. I was
particularly interested in why they concentrated in particular places and why all of them did.
It wasn't just that you had an art scene in New York. It was that it was also one of the
headquarters for fashion and for music and for design.
And of course, unsurprisingly in some ways, these industries needed each other and they
really, really connected to one another and they tended to share human capital, they tended
to share information, and-and that because they shared this information in a very ad
hoc, spontaneous way, in a very in sort of in situ it wasn't that they'd scheduled a
four o'clock meeting and that's when everything happened.
It was that they ran into each other in-in coffee shops and they ended up at the same
night clubs or the same restaurants, and that things happened in this very accidental way.
And in many ways it-it is very reminiscent of some of the historical stories of the,
of the rise of Silicon Valley. Is that you actually had these Bohemians just kind of
living their lives together and-and-and just accidentally trading ideas that turned into-to
very meaningful innovation.
And so you see this in, I think, all innovation driven industries and-and certainly the work
that's been done in technology makes very much what I've-I've-I've seen in these creative
The thing that makes creative industries a bit different than technology is not perpetual
innovation because they-they both require that, but that they are taste driven. It is
not that a semi-conductor runs faster, it is not that the brakes are better, it-it there-there
is not an obvious way to measure why we love Mark-Mark Rothko and we leave thousands artists
in the dust to-to-to remain unknown.
And so I was fascinated when I was done studying the art industries in New York, how did people
become stars in these industries? Were they, were they genuinely better than everyone else?
And of course in creative industries you don't just become really good or you become anointed.
You genuinely become a bona fide star because popular culture industries are so important
to the media and because they are visually documented. The world knew who you were if
you became a good film star. You-you were a celebrity in-in every sense of the word.
And so that was the first thing I was interested in.
What I realized when I studied the Warhol Econ, when I, when I wrote the Warhol Economy
one of the most important findings was the fact that so much of their economic lives
were occurred within their social lives.
That in fact their-their informal networks were where a lot of their work got done or
at least the beginning parts of their work got done. They got jobs this way, they traded
ideas this way, they found out what other companies were doing this way.
And so I knew that that probably was-was what we might be observing in these kind of special
people; these people who became stars. They-they must be doing something differently than everyone
else, and so I started out with that as-as my-my premise.
The second thing is when I-I started to study celebrity within the popular cultural industries
I-I realized how ubiquitous a phenomenon this-this is that celebrity is in some ways associated
with film and music and fashion. On the other hand, why did we care as a society so much
about people that we didn't know anything about?
The other thing that's interesting about celebrity is that of course it is divorced from talent.
It's not mutually exclusive, it's not like you can't be talented and if you're a celebrity,
but it's that you don't have to be talented if you're a celebrity at all. I mean this
is, this is a bit of a no brainer, we all know this here, but-but that it was extraordinary
to the extent to which this was true.
And that was, of course, because celebrity has nothing to do with talent. If we think
about what celebrity is it's actually about our collective fascination with particular
people. We want to know where they had dinner, we want to know how they like to drink their
coffee, we want to know how many hours of sleep they-they sleep at night, and do they
go to the gym. And-and-and these are so banal I mean why? And yet I can't speak for everyone
in the room, but I-I too am interested.
But-but that is what makes celebrity quite different from fame, of course, because fame
is simply that people know who you are. I mean Nobel Prize winners are-are famous, but
I don't know about you but I'm not particularly interested in how they drink their coffee
or who they had dinner with last night.
Same with the Secretary of Defense.
[talking in background]
They're also quite talented people. And I even, in your world Bill Gates is a very interesting
example because Bill Gates is, of course, incredibly famous. But guess what? He's a
genius, of course he's famous. I don't care where he had dinner last night. And so that
is a real difference and in that respect you see celebrity in many social spheres.
And so it-it-it really evolved from being a study of the cultural industries to acknowledging
that it existed everywhere in a way that it had never before, to the fact that it wasn't
exclusive to these popular cultural industries at all. That in fact anyone who has a Facebook
account or a Twitter account knows that in fact these people exist everywhere. Jenn Smith
is eating a cookie. And-and yet in ten comments on her Facebook profile about this as if this
is interesting at all. And yet it clearly is 'cause were commenting.
And-and then it was that-that in fact social media gives us just another lens to see something
that has probably always existed. I mean the homecoming queen and the quarterback on the,
on the football team in high school they were celebrities too. We obsessed about them for
things that had nothing to do with any contribution they gave us. We just wanted to know about
them as people.
So-so that's sort of how this-this evolved.
Now what becomes really difficult is if you're a social scientist you need data, you need
something rigorous. You can't just talk about these things. And so that was the tough part.
And one thing that I really got my hands on that-that was great in terms of studying kind
of main stream celebrity was photographs. Because these people socialize which-which
I believed really was how they became stars are documented almost 24/7.
You can find out what Paris Hilton is doing on Friday night. You can find out where Angelina
Jolie is-is-is spending time right now just by a very quick troll of-of-of the media,
whether it's TMZ or X17 or whether it's actually something like Getty Images which is, which
is what I used.
And so-so-so I'm gonna talk a little bit more about how I used this data, but I-I'd like
to open up talking about the data with-with-with an anecdote from-from the book and-and a discussion
of the role of social network.
So let me get right there.
Alright. This is from Chapter 5, How to Become a Star in the Celebrity Network.
"On June 2008, on a hot summer evening, my friend Eric, who had been working tirelessly
on Hilary Clinton's Presidential campaign, called to say he would be flying into New
York City the next day for the Senator's speech after the Montana and South Dakota primaries.
This speech would be her last before conceding to Barack Obama.
Eric said that if I wanted to come, the event would take place at Baruch College with a
fabulous- sounding after-party at the Gramercy Park Hotel. He would happily get me in.
This was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I cancelled my previous plans, and the next
day at 6 p, at 6:00 p.m. I made a beeline down, downtown to meet him.
When I arrived the place was already swarming with people and TV cameras, and there was
still a line of supporters all around the block waiting for him to get in.
The real picture was far removed from the claims that journalists had made the next
day that 'barely 300 people showed up and that the evening was more like a wake.'"
That was Andrea Peyser from the New York Post.
"I got to-to the front door where Eric had asked me to wait for him. Of course with all
of the guards, Secret Service, and various Clinton staffers patrolling the front area
I had to make myself look really busy with the aura being possibly an important person
which involved frenzy and unnecessary emailing on my Blackberry, thus avoiding all eye contact
with people who could ask me to move away from the door or into the line.
Eric arrived just in time sporting an open collar white shirt and designer jeans accompanied
by days' old facial hair, looking ever the part of the hipster demographic that had only
recently become a politically active and tremendously desired constituency.
Slapping on a bright yellow band on my, on my wrist Eric whisked me past some 1500 people
who had been waiting in line for hours and were probably going to be told the event was
After going through a rigorous security check, we went down to the basement where the event
was being held and watched the media flurry unfold.
Random politicians and high up staffers were talking to reporters. CNN and Fox News anchors
were grooming themselves and talking into their headsets, ready to go at a moment's
Socialites and supporters richer than Croatia sashayed about the VIP section, designer handbags
and Lily Pulitzer shift dresses on full display.
Shortly before Senator Clinton was to appear on stage, Eric and a few of his staffer friends
were busy ensuring that I would get a good seat and then later get backstage access.
Eric worked for her advanced team, but more than 500 media outlets and hundreds of supporters
were showing up so it would be pretty tricky to arrange.
Eric, however, was privy to what would, could only be described as all access buttons which
would allow us backstage to get us into the most privileged parts of the event. These
buttons were provided by the Secret Service in very limited batches for staff. And sure
enough Eric produced one from his pocket.
Once the access dilemma had been resolved, we went back to the VIP section where I had
to show my yellow wrist band yet again and awaited the Senator's arrival. The staffers
were still discussing access and how to get non-advanced team fans back to meet the Senator.
Eric turned to a fellow staffer, a young pretty blond girl, and said, 'Do you have any of
those media passes left? We'll need those for backup.' With barely a beat between request
and delivery she proudly reached into her enormous Prada handbag and produced a handful
of hot pink passes the size of index cards with Senator Clinton's name emblazoned across
the top and 'media' in boldface on the bottom.
Thanks to Eric and his friendly fellow staffers, there I was with backups to backups of access
to see one of the most important public figures in the world.
Senator Clinton's speech was impassioned and exhilarating in the way that television can
never quite capture. The audience was transfixed while she spoke and erupted into thunderous
applause as she finished.
Afterwards we went backstage and were introduced to Hillary, Huma Abedin, her right hand woman,
Bill and Chelsea, the former head of the Democratic National Committee and head of the Clinton
campaign, Terry McAuliffe, and every other significant member of the Presidential campaign.
Later that evening all of these people except Senator Clinton attended the after-party at
the Gramercy Park Hotel mingling and chatting for hours with the attendees.
This story makes it seem like access to the Senator is easy, but in reality, it's impossible.
You might think that if you stand in line long enough or keep showing up at the doorstep
of important events your chances of befriending stars increases, but it doesn't. Rite of entry
relies on one very good link. If that link is a legitimate access point, either a celebrity
or someone who worked closely with stars, then one has a ticket into an exclusive world.
Without Eric, my chances of setting foot into the door of the auditorium, let alone meeting
Senator Clinton personally and attending her after party, were zero. My success relied
solely and totally on my friendship with Eric.
But once initial access is granted the next layer of connections is that much easier.
Suddenly, by mingling at the Gramercy Park Hotel you have all the access in the world
to people who have the potential to elevate your profile too. Maybe you want to befriend
them, become their boyfriend or girlfriend, or simply request their friendship on Facebook.
No matter your networking goal by accessing the party you've never been closer to attaining
A fundamental quality of celebrity is that celebrities are celebrities because they spend
time with each other, reinforcing the belief that they truly are different from you and
This may seem to be a story about one of the world's pol, biggest political celebrities,
but the exclusiveness of celebrity world can be mirrored in the most ordinary and small
scale ways.
High school cliques and college sororities maintain their elite sim, status similarly,
except that their parties are not at the Gramercy Heart, except that the parties at the Gramercy
Park Hotel are replaced with Friday night sleepovers and private mixers with elite fraternities.
By maintaining exclusivity in their social lives these groups too produce their own relative
Understanding celebrity requires a knowledge of the social network that produces them.
This may be an intellectual exercise for most of us, but in practical terms those in the
business of wanting to become celebrities must first make contact with those who have
already achieved this goal.
But who cares? If a clique is that much, if, is that exclusive and that much of a pain
to get into then maybe it's just not worth becoming a member.
In the last few decades scientists and sociologists have devoted much of their lives to answering
these questions. Why would anyone want to belong to a group? What are the real outcomes,
both benefits and drawbacks of being a member?
Most of us have friends, some of us have a lot of friends who aren't close, some of us
have a few friends we hold near and dear; if we're lucky we have lots of friends who
are loyal and close and on whom we can depend.
On the most basic level friends form a social network. Some of us have very tight groups
of friends who are all friends with one another. Still others have tons of acquaintances who
are not necessarily friends but make up a wide and disparate collection of people.
Think of Malcolm Gladwell's famous connectors, those people with friends on every continent.
A lot of us have this type of large and fairly loosely connected friendship group on our
Facebook account. I am friends with people I haven't seen in years. I'm also friends
with my colleagues at work, my husband, my best friend to whom I talk every day.
Even before social media websites social networks formed our basic relationships with people
around us.
But friendship isn't the only type of social network. How we get jobs, how diseases spread,
how websites become popular, and how people attain upward mobility are all determined
by our relations and connections and interactions with other people.
Our ability to interact with some people and some groups may provide benefits or may exclude
us from other groups. Mean spirited high school cliques that don't let certain individuals
in because they are friends with someone they don't like are the classic example of exclusionary
social networks.
But in other ways social networks are useful for meeting people who will introduce us to
our future partner or spouse, get us a new job, write us a recommendation for college,
and so forth.
Studying social networks is a good way of understanding how the world is organized;
another lens for interpreting a wide range of phenomena in human society from why people
marry who they do to how people become rich, catch a cold, or in this case attain celebrity
Through the eyes of the media, mainstream celebrities look like beautiful people who
are photographed a lot and who are generally sports stars, musicians, actors, or models.
But another way to look at celebrities is as a member's only group. Celebrities are
celebrities also because they get invited to certain parties and hang out with certain
people. They are a part of a very elite, invite only network. Individuals attain celebrity
in part by the company they keep and the events they attend; in other words, their social
There are benefits to being a part of an exclusive network. While all forms of celebrity exhibit
this type of exclusiveness, most though not all mainstream celebrities get their foot
in the door first by being associated with popular culture industries to some degree.
Some of these individuals are genuinely talented actors or musicians which buys them access
to exclusive events. Others may not possess talent but their face and their presence are
of interest to the popular press enough they are invited. Their talent or media attention
is their entry to that world that would not take notice of them simply as individuals.
And this is where the celebrity network is critical. Getting invited to and showing up
at the right parties and meeting the right people are only the surface benefits of the
celebrity network. If you're an actor or a politician meeting those important people
at those exclusive parties is essential to your career.
The Vanity Fair Oscar Party, for example, is more than just hanging out with other good
looking people. Young actors get the chance to hobnob with influential directors who might
remember them down the line and give them a role in a major film. Directors and producers
talk shop about movie ideas that might turn into award winning blockbusters.
Even those stars with no talent need to be at the events and parties that other celebrities
are attending just to define themselves as being a part of the exclusive celebrity set
and get themselves photographed. This entitles them to a membership card.
For the Paris Hilton's of the world, membership in the exclusive world of celebrity compensates
for the lack of an Academy Award or a Grammy. And if you are in show business to show the
world your talent, then being a part of the most exclusive and powerful network offers
huge benefits.
Celebrity networks are influential because they are both the means by which celebrity
status is perpetuated and they provide access points to important people who can elevate
an aspiring star's career.
If we could infiltrate this exclusive world could it tell us something more genuinely
about how people become stars?
A few years back my Ben Gurion University colleague, Gilad Ravid and I were determined
to figure this out. We believe that celebrity status can partially be explained through
specific networks of which celebrities are a part. But after establishing that theory
we ran into a bit of a basic non-starter. How does one get into a net, a celebrity network
in the first place and after that how does someone become a particular type of star?
We knew it would be unlikely that Paris Hilton or Angelina Jolie would fill out weekly surveys
on their comings and goings: whom they had lunch with, what they did on Friday night,
or who they met up with for coffee.
But we knew that one of the defining differences between celebrities and us is that they spend
time with each other and we spend time with, well us. That exclusiveness is part and parcel
of why it would be almost impossible to document their networks. Most of the point after all
is that ordinary people can't participate.
Luckily Gilad is a genius computer scientist and I spend a lot of time reading celebrity
magazines. Between the two of us we figured out a way to access celebrity networks and
the exclusiveness of their social lives without asking them a single survey question or trying
to talk to Paris Hilton.
A definitive aspect of being a celebrity is that your life is fascinating to many other
people, and in the case of stars like Paris and Angelina your life is photographed and
documented around the clock, around the world.
If many minutes of these celebrities lives are broadcast to the world in hundreds of
media outlets and thousands of photos, wouldn't this be the most obvious way to study their
social networks and the things that they do that are different from what we do?
What parties do celebrities get invited to and which people do they hang out with? What
is Paris Hilton doing on a Friday night? Well, just a glance at the photos in Us Weekly or
People will tell you.
So if we look at photographs of celebrities living their lives, we'll have a pretty good
sense of who they spend time with and what they do.
For an entire year we studied all of the arts and entertainment photos taken by Getty Images,
the largest photographic agency in the world. We analyzed some 600,000 photographs of almost
12,000 events recording the 6.5% of individuals who appeared in four or more images; the celebrity
core so to speak.
We then studied all of the events they attended and people they spend time with. So far we
figured out a thing or two about the nature of celebrity.
It came as no surprise that celebrities hang out with other celebrities and they go to
events that the rest of us aren't invited to. Celebrity tabloids love to breed the fiction
that celebrities are quote 'just like us,' but they're not.
Angelina Jolie goes to parties with George Clooney and Matt Damon and those get togethers
happen to be the Vanity Fair Oscar Party and the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute
Ball as opposed to Aunt Sally's barbeque or the cos, or Friday night bowling. These differences
between celebrities and us are not just anecdotal they can be statistically measured."
Alright, so what I wanted to do now because I wanted to kind of set the context for how
I studied this is I'm gonna look, I'm gonna show you how I actually did statistically
measure this.
The first thing is we looked at Getty Images. And the reason we picked Getty Images as opposed
to any other photographic database is because it just is more consistent and robust.
So you can look at TMZ or X17 but these-these photographs are pretty chaotic; they're not
necess, they're not uniformly labeled, they're not, their caption information is inconsistent;
but Getty is.
So what we did was we looked at each photograph and the captions associated with them.
What we then did was we collected an entire year, this was our pilot study, and identified
the images, the people in the images through caption information. We identified the location
of the event, the date of the event, what the event was, and so forth. And you see an
example of-of Angelina Jolie at the Os-Oscars on February 22nd in L.A.
We came up with an awful lot of data. This is over 70,000 nodes, that's people, over
a million potential connections, on 13,000 events, in 187 locations, and over 600,000
We then reduced the noise, because you can, all of us can kind of accidentally end up
in a photograph on Getty Images, and so that-that's a bit of a one hit wonder though. So what
we wanted to do were who was consistently being photographed by Getty Images. This was
a really good proxy for what we called "the celebrity core." And so this reduced the numbers
to about 7,000 nodes and about 800,000 connections.
So the first thing that we did was we wanted to know where these photographs were taken.
Okay? Because this is where actually having a background in geography is really interesting
because of course things happen in particular places. And celebrity hinges on being photographed
and it means that you can't actually just spend all of your life in Kansas never going
to events. For people to know, for you and I to know who someone is they need to make
sure to get their photograph taken.
So where does that happen?
So we did two things. One thing we just figured out where Getty was taking pictures. The second
thing we did was we looked at the relationships between places. What was the likelihood of
being photographed in one place and your likelihood of being photographed in another place? What
places were most connected by this sort of flow of stars?
So the first thing we looked at is the concentration of Getty photographs. You can see that in
general the U.S., particularly L.A. and New York and-and also the UK are the most photographed
I think the thing that's interesting here is-is-is not just the-the places that are
disproportionally photographed, but the places that don't seem to have any photographs. And
so you have large parts of Africa and parts of the Middle East that don't have any photographs
in the Getty database.
And we have, we have a number of-of thoughts on why this is. I mean is it because fans
aren't interested in things going on there? Is it because the media doesn't go there?
Is it because the events aren't commodified enough that photographs would, photographers
would show up? It-it-it's hard to know.
And Bollywood actually is not photographed at all on our Getty database which is quite
surprising given that it's actually bigger than Hollywood in terms of film production.
And-and-and actually one of the reasons this is is because Bollywood is actually quite
insular. It-it's not all that interested in connecting to Hollywood; its stars are happy
to stay in Bollywood. It has a huge fan base in the Middle East and so there's-there's-there's-there's,
it's not that they're being ignored it's that we're, they don't really want us around.
>>male #1: [inaudible]
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>male #1: [inaudible]
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: You would. I mean what we're looking for is a-a rigorous dataset
for other countries that clearly house core film industry and fashion industry activity
that is not being picked up by Getty. So yeah, we-we realized that-that this-this would be
inconclusive to-to-to just say it was all happening in the States.
The next thing we did though was look at the relationship between places. And what we found
was that New York and L.A. unsurprisingly are the most connected. Los Angeles and London
are the second most connected.
But what's really fascinating here is that you actually have kind of nowhere else really
meaningful besides three places which is: Los Angeles, New York, and London, and a couple
of somewhat temporary what I, I've been calling kind of sub-hubs of-of-of stardom which are
Cannes, Paris Fashion Week, and you also find that U-Utah the Sundance Film Festival. And
in Florida you have a couple events that why we used Florida because the-the-the results
would actually not be statistically significant if you, if you looked at particular cities
within Florida. So we look at Florida as the whole, but the-the big events going on here
are Art Basel Miami and Miami's Fashion Week, are-are two such examples.
Okay, some general findings here.
Eighty percent of all the photos that we looked at were taken in three places. So of 600,000
photos, 80% of them are taken in three places and that's L.A., New York, and London.
Again I-I talked to you about the connectivity between a couple of different places.
The next thing that we did was, and this is actually with my colleague, Sarah Williams
at Columbia University. We wanted to know if you look on a micro level what, where are
things happening?
So we got this kind of macro picture which in some ways is-is unsurprising to us which
is that there are three major hubs of stardom in-in-in the world; they're places that-that
we all kind of expected as such that-that of course some places are-are important some
of the time, this is where Cannes or Sundance becomes important. But what's happening in
these identified geographies of stardom?
So here what we did is we took the photographs and we attached geotags to them. So we actually
have a longitude and latitude associated with each photograph in Los Angeles and New York.
It's about 300,000 photos and about 6,000 events. It wasn't the funnest thing in the
world I did. [laughs]
So we had to look up the addresses for each of them. And then we mapped them.
And what you see here is that, I think it's pretty clear from the slide, that the-the
white is what's important; that's where things are really happening. And sure you'll have
events throughout L.A., but these are the places where most of the activity is occurring.
The bigger the yellow circle the bigger number of photographs being taken there.
So you've got frequency of event and then you have frequency of photograph. Okay?
This is at what we call magnet. So in this particular part of analysis we actually categorized
the photographs associated with industry. And-and-and so what we looked at was where
do fashion events happen? Where do film, where do music events? Magnet are events that were
not associated with a particular industry, but seemed to have a high frequency of-of
star presence.
And you can see that there's essentially three places in L.A. that seem to drive these events.
Looked at New York; New York's a little more chaotic. You're dealing with a-a smaller geography
and you're also dealing with the fact that people don't have to get in their car, and
so New York has kind of the luxury of being able to have more-more event activity.
And then we did this for theater. Unsurprisingly you have Midtown in New York. In L.A. you
have it primarily around Hollywood. Oh actually this is the film industry. And so again you
have really, really finite number of places where things are happening.
So it's not actually that celebrity is everywhere. It's everywhere in the media; it's everywhere
in our tabloids in-in our newspapers. But in fact the production of celebrity, the ability
to actually create your star power happens in a limited number of places.
Next thing we did is we looked at Hollywood.
And what we were interested in was what kind of geographical behavior do stars engage in
that other people do not?
Now I think it's fair to say that within the world of celebrity it's not all created equally,
right? You have people who win Oscars; we know who they are; we think they're talented
and we're interested in them. George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, very obvious examples of-of
people who-who are both talented and interesting to their publics.
And then of course you have people like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian who people kind of
the running joke is, "What in God's earth are we paying attention to here?" And yet,
we do.
And so what we really saw, my-my colleague and I, were that there's clearly two things
going on here. That you've got stars that are-are-are talented and stars that are media
stars and do they do things that are generally different? If in fact do you kind of organized
your behavior such that you went to these kinds of events would you have, be more likely
to be hired to work in a particular film which would up your talent or would you photographed
So we did two things.
The first thing we did is we actually looked at, we created a talent proxy.
Forbes Magazine ranks actors. They actually do really rigorous methodology. They-they
do surveys with Hollywood executives. They-they were interested in bankability, but-but the
three things they were, the criteria for bankability was: can you attract other stars to your films?
Can you bring in other financial resources? And do you drum up box office receipts? And
they ranked 1400 actors and actresses.
The usual suspects are at the top. You've got Will Smith, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio,
Brad Pitt; these are people who-who seemed to really be able to bring resources to a
The next thing we did is we looked at Google. And we thought, "Who is the world talking
So what we did is we collected data on Google to-to rank the stars that had the biggest
media presence; the biggest media volume. And we did it actually Google, Forbes star
currency only came out in 2009 so we only had that year to work with. But Google we
used with the same year that we attracted, that we got photographs from Getty.
We merged these datasets. We basically said, "You've gotta show up in Google. You've gotta
show up in Getty photographs. And you have to be ranked as an actor or actress on Forbes."
So then our end went from, I think we started at 70,000, moved down to 7,000, now we're
working with 864 stars. So these are, these are like the mega set, the-the super in-crowd.
Our big question was: what is the influence of place? And place is the events you go to,
the people you spend time with in particular places, on the type of star you become?
So we tested the influence of certain kinds of places on star currency and the influence
on media volume.
And our independent variables, what we were testing on, were particular places around
the world.
And there was another way we looked at it. It wasn't just did you show up for an event
in London, it was also we had a variable did you show up to consecutive events in London?
As in you were fully sticking around there or did you have to hop on a plane? Were you
photographed in Los Angeles, then London, then Los Angeles, that that would be a very
different variable than just seeming to spend all of your time in a place.
What did we find out?
They really are different. In some ways it's not surprising, but in others it's actually,
it's actually shocking.
Los Angeles has no influence on talent profile. It is not associated with stars who are highly
ranked in talent. We believe this is because it's not unique; it, everyone has to do it;
there's nothing unique about showing up in L.A.
Showing up in London, going to one event in New York, and showing up in Japan, of all
places, has a positive influence on star currency and talent.
Any kind of long term spending time anywhere whether it's New York or London or Los Angeles
is not a good idea for talent.
Media, very different. L.A. actually is really important for media. If you spend a lot of
time in Los Angeles your media volume goes up.
Going to Las Vegas is actually bad for everyone [laughs]
which is unfortunate, I, but it's just true.
And London and Japan are still influential in-in-in looking at media-media along with
Now you might be questioning as-as I would if I were looking at this, "Why are you picking
Japan?" And then you look at London, the city, it's simply is an abundance of data. So London
had, just has a lot of data so it becomes statistically meaningful. Japan you have to
kinda look at it as a whole to-to figure out it's-it's influence on the model.
Oh wait, before I go to that.
So really quickly we know different behaviors from different stars. This is not a cause
or effect thing; I'm not saying if you suddenly show up on Tokyo you're suddenly going to
win an Oscar and be viewed by the-the-the industry as-as-as really successful. But it
is demonstrating associations between types of stars.
The second thing we did is we ran social network analysis. And we took that Forbes star currency
and we looked at A, B, and C list stars. So the A list was the top 20; the B list the
middle 20; and the C was the bottom 20. It's-it's a rough approximation. But we wanted to see
if they had genuinely different social networks. They do.
So in the Getty Image database as a whole, people have connections of 3.26. Now you know
you've got the six degrees of separation as in kind of common parlance. That's actually
true; people have studied this; it's true; people have six degrees of separation.
If you're a part of the Getty network you're degrees of separation are 3.26. But the A
list is genuinely more special than everyone else.
So while, and you can kind of see this on-on here, the A list are the circle, they're the
super-clustered ones. They spend all of their time together; they don't go to a lot of events;
and they spend time with the same people.
If you're in the B or the C list you might as well just be in the Getty Image database
as a whole because you don't have any more connections than anyone else in the network.
And so why might this, I mean you can see these people are not connected at all. They-they-they
don't have this kind of connected. It's really that center area and those are all the A list
Now one thing that is very clear is that we talk about sort of toiling away on work; at
some point you can penetrate the elite network.
What we find is you actually need a quantum leap into these networks. That it doesn't
just, it doesn't happen just as some sort of linear trajectory. I mean you-you genuinely
have, something lucky has to happen or you have to, you have to win the Oscar that gets
you the invite to the Oscar parties or you have to marry an A lister. I mean you have
to genuinely do something that-that catapults you in rather-rather than just hoping it's
gonna happen one day.
I don't have this network up, but I really think this is important to bring up. The-the
other thing that we did was we looked at this, the media stars and we looked at their social
If you are very, very recorded in the media you're network looks like the A list. The
difference: you have to work that much harder.
Paris Hilton's network, and we may laugh about it, but actually I was actually quite impressed
with her after I'd done all this research. She works really, really hard. Her network
looks like if she was an A-lister. As in if she'd won copious awards and she was invited
to all these exclusive parties. Because she's able to, by virtue of going out all the time,
cultivate a high number of degrees and-and-and closer degrees of separation from other people
in a way that A-listers are only given by virtue of the fact that they-they have these
very selective outlets that have high impact value.
So actually if you're a social media star, if you don't have talent and you're not immediately
in the A list, you just need to hustle. And that's, and that's essentially what-what it
seemed that these top media stars do.
What are some of the conclusions?
One, in some ways it's-it's not a shocker but it, I think it has a lot of implications
for how we understand headquarters and competitive advantage, is that there's only three places
in the world that really count in terms of getting your photograph taken in a, in a sort
of aggregate way, right? I mean 80% of the photographs are taken in three places.
The other thing though is that genuinely the way you socially behave has some implications
for your career outcome. And so it really is that we didn't find any A-listers in Las
Vegas. That's not a place that they ever are photographed. So cause and effect may be unclear
maybe they just have a lot of work and they don't have time, or maybe they just don't
make that decision and pigeonhole themselves into a, being a particular kind of star that
kind of corrupts their brand, which actually as we know in these cultural industries is
really important.
And then the other thing is just that the A list really is different and-and this is
fascinating for people who are interested in social networks, is that we see a stratification
process when we look at Getty Images database anyway, okay, these are elites. These are
elites. They have an elite network. They spend time with each other. They get all this what
sociologists call 'preferential attachment' from being a part of this network. They-they
get more out of their networks than we get out of our random networks.
But even within this elite network we find these micro-stratification processes. There
are people even within that have even more elite networks than everyone else, and they're
the ones who get the most benefits. But penetrating it is-is-is seemly impossible.
So that's it.
Thank you very much. I hope you liked this sort of piecemeal way of doing this, but I
wanted to capture it from all angles so.
>>Julie Wiskirchen: Wait for the microphone. I'll pass it around.
>>male #2: Are-are all these graphics in your book?
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: They are indeed. [laughs] Better ones in fact. [laughs]
>>female #1: Thank you for coming in --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Oh, thank you.
>>female #1: this is really cool.
I wonder like just about I think you did a great job with the data in terms of defining,
but I wonder what the actual causality is because I feel like it's more like you're
creating definitions for that type of A list and I think like if you would look at TMZ
it would be a lot different than Getty 'cause Getty is much more focused on the A list.
And I don't know if it's so much of build it and they will come versus they're there
so we're gonna be there.
But yeah, I think it would be really interested, interesting to look at this versus like a
TMZ or that kind of thing and even how this differs like over time. 'Cause I think of
like Angeline Jolie but she is never in L.A., she's always all --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: over the place and she's in Africa a lot so --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: maybe she's those one spots over in Africa --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Right.
>>female #1: and stuff like that.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: She could be driving like all of Getty's photographs.
>>female #1: [laughs] Yeah, so I mean and I know Getty's much more focused in the type
of events they cover and that kind of thing. So do you, have you looked at other like the
Paris Hilton of a couple years ago or now the Kim Kardashian of like the people that
are more focused on TMZ?
And then also I think like with the outside factors are going on like the whole Tony Parker,
Eva Longoria thing that they wouldn't, we wouldn't have cared necessarily what restaurant
she was going to a couple months ago, but now everybody wants to know what she's doing
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Those are, that's, I mean we're absolutely thinking alike here.
That's, those are exactly the problems that we're working on. One thing is you're right
you get a this sort of, this sort of ephemeral nature of celebrity which is of course is
that Eva Longoria won't be interesting to us five years from now.
There's only a couple of people that can actually recreate themselves. I mean Madonna is like
the obvious example; Michael Jackson when he was alive.
So there is that problem.
Two things that we're doing: one is that we are doing time series. And this is actually
we're being here at Google I would love your take on this because we want to not just do
time series with the photographs, but do time series with the other variables that may be
influencing their career outcome so that we can trace it. I mean a snapshot gives you
a sense of what the structure of their network looks like now and what they did that year.
But what did they do in 2000 that might have influenced why they're doing this now? I mean
is there other ways to tease this out?
So for-for example with-with Google, I mean could you actually sort by particular types
of media? Would-would the way you were reported in the media actually demonstrate this? Because
it is a rough approximation just say you show up a lot in the media. It's like well what
kind of media might-might also dictate things too? So?
>>female #1: Yeah.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: so thank you.
>>female #1: And-and also how they, what they do to sustain the like rise in popularity
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: and the downfall because how they'll keep on making those L.A. popular
restaurant visits to like make sure that they're constantly staying in the media even if they're
story has kinda dropped off since then.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Totally. I mean that was one of the things that we did notice
was that these media stars did act differently. I mean they-they did go to L.A. all the time.
And of course that's because that's where the media is and so the paps will take photos
of you if you're going to restaurants there. They're not gonna go to Utah just to take
a picture of you unless it's Sundance.
>>female #1: Yeah.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: And so the-the thing that's hard about using TMZ or X17,
which I'd love to, it's just the data, the photographs are too chaotic right now.
>>female #1: Um-hum.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: I-I need to think about how we could collect that data in a
way that would be rigorous enough that you-you'd be able to derive something meaningful rather
than just; 'cause that the thing that's beautiful about Getty I mean they're just so systematic.
>>female #1: Yeah.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: so.
>>female #1: Yeah, for sure.
And then, I'm sorry, another question I had.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: [laughs] I love this section.
>>female #1: [laughs] Another question I had was I always like struggle with how much it
is stars putting themselves in the public --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: eye versus the public eye following them and I know it's always easier for them
to say something or --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: to play victim or not victim but like I mean it seems to me like there's
certain stars that do have talent but do put themselves in the public eye like Jessica
Simpson --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: versus like Angelina Jolie. I do think that they do try to avoid it they
don't absolutely like are aggressive about not --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Certainly selective.
>>female #1: avoiding it but --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: [laughs]
>>female #1: yeah but I mean they're definitely are people following her. And then some people
use that to bolster their whole appeal like Mylie Cyrus or something ?
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>female #1: where she lives right where all the public, where all the paparazzi is anyway.
So do you have any insights from that based on this about like the A list stars, that
I feel like they almost can become more A list if they're like, "Oh we're trying to
avoid it," or.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Well totally. I mean that's a, that's a really good question.
So one thing I do fundamentally believe is that your celebrity is definitely there's
agency involved here. I mean there are stars who have won awards or starred in fantastic
films who are famous, but they're celebrity is hanging on a thin reed and-and by choice.
I mean Keira Knightley is a very interesting. I mean super pretty, great actress, like wide
acclaim. I don't know anything about her. I mean she is barely a celebrity. She's proper
famous, proper talented. We don't have anything to connect with her as fans because she has
no interest in giving us that information. And that's her prerogative.
And I, so I do think that there is this sort of decision that they make to go to restaurants
or go anywhere where the media's taking notes or-or taking photographs. So-so I, so I think
that that's-that's really true.
And-and-and you-you were saying about how they, I think you were saying how-how they
act differently from others. Was that the second part of your question? You had another
really good point and I --
>>female #1: I don't know.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Are you at, anyway.
>>female #1: [laughs]
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: I don't know you asked me a really good question I got like
the first half but I --
>>female #1: [laughs]
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: didn't get the second so.
>>female #1: Yeah.
Well, thank you.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah. No, thank you.
>>male #3: It-it seems to me that some kinds of media need big celebrities a lot more than
others. For example, TV and movies just because the cost for production is so high tend to
bank a lot more on really big celebrities as opposed to other media like Web video or
just the Web in general. And in-in The Long Tail, Chris Anderson --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Yeah.
>>male #3: documents this phenomena where the hits keep getting smaller. The hits of
the 2000's are lots smaller than the hits of the 80s and the 90s.
So ha-have you seen any trends in just the magnitude of celebrity over time or do you
have any thoughts with that?
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Well it-it's funny you bring up Chris Anderson's work because
I don't if you're familiar with Anita Elberse's work, she's at Harvard Business School, but
she studied The Long Tail. And what she concluded was that yes we had more niche interests but
that we still did glom onto the blockbusters.
That in fact we do, I mean she, as she put it, "We're social folks." So it's-it's actually
part of the enjoyment of having a celebrity that you're interested in or watching a movie
or reading a book, is the fact that other people have too and so you can talk about
these things.
So I think that there are subcultures. I think there's-there's no question in fact in my
book I talk a lot about this phenomena, this, of the relative celebrity. That if you go
to a Star Trek convention or you follow War Games, there are, there are genuine stars
and-and the-the fans in those subcultures care a heck of a lot more about those stars
than they do about Paris Hilton. They really, she is an interloper as far as they're concerned.
But-but that doesn't mean that people like Paris or Kim Kardashian or Angelina Jolie
become less important. In fact, if anything, I think that they permeate society all the
more because it, there's so many low, there's such low barriers to entry and there's such
a deluge of-of free media.
I mean actually I think in Anderson's later book he talks about this that there's-there's
just this sort of if you refresh your Perez Hilton page every two minutes you've got more
information about someone. And so, in fact if anything their presence is-is-is more,
but it-it can coexist with the-the rise of these other stars.
>>male #4: So the question I have is actually about data quality.
So you said that Getty was like just comprehensive, well ordered and so on; TMZ chaotic is the
term you used. Do you hypothesize in the book as to maybe why? I mean I can tell, I-I have
a very good idea why Getty is so ordered, but why is TMZ so chaotic?
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: I think it's because they're reporting on something totally different.
I mean in some ways they're both reporting on stars, but TMZ is about this sort of the
prosaic, minute-by-minute activity of stars grabbing a coffee or getting dinner.
But if you look at Getty it's-it's really at these-these formal events. I mean Getty
has very little by way of the sort of accidental photographs of stars. And I think, so I think
that they're reporting a different aspect of celebrity.
So there's no question, I mean one thing when I presented this data before people say, "Oh
you, you're not capturing the bohemia of these creative industries." And-and-and no, I'm
not. But-but that's-that's, you kind of have to use the, what you, what you have and I
think it still tells an important story but, about the kind of celebrity and creative industries
that we decide to commodify. So, yeah.
But-but you're, oh sorry. Go ahead.
>>male #4: I was gonna say if-if there's runner up behind Getty Images for like well ordered
images that you could study what would that be?
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: My goodness.
>>male #4: I'm thinking about data points is-is why and --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Oh right.
>>male #4: would it be interesting to essentially do a comparison between the data provided
by Getty and then the runner up of well ordered data on celebrity to see if there's differences
there that are interesting?
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Oh that's interesting. I mean I almost wonder if you'd, well one
thing I was actually thinking when-when you said that was it might even be fruitful to
look at something like TMZ or X17. To look at the differences because my sense is they're
very, very different, but actually in that-that also tells you a story.
So maybe in some ways it's not looking at what's almost as good as Getty, it's like
well what's looking at a totally different angle of these stars and their lives and how
do they tell a different story from-from Getty?
So yeah that a, that's a good idea.
>>female #2: I have a question.
Just thinking about kind of the intersection between talent stars and media stars and do
media stars have talent, recently Bristol Palin did really well on Dancing With The
Stars --
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: [laughs]
>> female #2: and I was wondering if you had any theories about why [laughs] or how that
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: I mean it's kind of like a broken watch is right twice a day.
I mean she might actually be a good dancer. [laughs]
I mean it's a, I mean it sounds like ridiculous but I-I think that there-there-there is, I
think the problem is with the rise of these sort of all celebrity types that we think,
"Oh well they, if you're a proper celebrity you can't possibly be talented."
But you never know I mean my argument always about Paris Hilton is she definitely didn't
seem talented but she's a, she's a businesswoman. I mean she has taken that celebrity that we
didn't think she deserved and she has built an empire.
And that's, I couldn't do that. [laughs]
That's talent. [laughs]
>>Julie Wiskirchen: Any other questions?
Thank you very much, Elizabeth.
>>Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: Thank you so much. It's been really a pleasure.