Why are readers suddenly interested in the Egyptian queen Cleopatra?
There’s been some news about a remake of the classic Queen Cleopatra movie, and a Superbowl ad featuring Cleopatra. But these news do not fully explain the number of views the famous queen of Egypt.
Illustrations from the movie
Trying to figure out why Cleopatra’s article views spiked, computer social scientists searched the Internet for answers.
Soon after, a user on Twitter provided a clue: The Google Assistant app, which uses voice recognition to allow users to interact with their smartphones, could be the cause.
Launched in 2016, the app is now integrated on at least 1 billion devices. There are more than 500 million monthly users.
Once you install Google and start using it, it provides examples of searches you can perform by speaking sample commands into your phone’s microphone. For example “Open YouTube”, ask to search the website or ask “How much water is in a glass?”.
One of the commands this search provides is “Try saying: Show Cleopatra on Wikipedia”.
By 2022, more than 50 million people have followed this reminder.
Before the Google assistant became popular in 2020, searches for Cleopatra were only about 2.5 million.
From Queen of Egypt to collective attention design
The popularity of the article about the Egyptian queen is probably greatly influenced by the example statement provided by the Google Assistant application. But this is not just an interesting coincidence.
Researchers in the fields of social data science and web analytics often use statistics — like Google searches and Wikipedia page views — to study attention dynamics and levels. common.
In addition to predicting the success of movies at the box office, they also use that data to study election popularity.
These fairly new data sources can be both useful and interesting. It is also a great means of tracking human behavior on an online platform. However, they can sometimes lead to skewed analysis.
In 2013, Google researchers attempted to predict the severity of flu season by analyzing user search data. However they failed.
It is important for researchers in the computer social sciences to consider qualitative methods and in-depth research to understand the story behind the data.
This phenomenon shows how a small change or design decision can have a large-scale impact. Because this design will reach millions of users through digital technology.
In Cleopatra’s case, no damage occurred. However, the considerable power that high-tech and media companies have in shaping and influencing public attention should not be overlooked.