Cristián Candia, current doctoral candidate of the Ph.D. in Social Complexity Sciences and young researcher from CICS, launched a website which analyses Wikipedia’s data in order to better understand the social phenomenon of the death of famous people during 2016 and to predict the number of these deaths for next year.
Candia, together with Cristián Jara, an assistant researcher at the MIT Media Lab and César Hidalgo, leader of the Macro Connections group in the same lab, were interested in studying the fact that for many people last year was especially difficult in terms of the number of cultural referents that ceased to exist.
To answer the question of whether 2016 was a particularly “deadly” year, Candia et al set out to operationalize fame, defining famous people as having at least 20 Wikipedia entries in different languages. On this basis, they also constructed a distinction of fame levels among the most famous – over 70 Wikipedia entries – and smaller categories as having over 20, 35 and 50.
With this information they built a trend line from 2000 to 2016, showing that in general terms, last year was not a particularly lethal year for celebrities.
However, when analyzing only the “super-famous” data, 2016 was indeed particularly damaging: almost twice as many people in this category died that year, rising from 9 in 2015 to 17 in 2016.
Besides this central question, the researchers analyzed the numbers of famous deaths according to their level of fame, performance areas – artists, politicians, athletes, scientists, humanists-, and birth year, concluding that due to the massification of information produced by the CITs we must expect more and more deaths of cultural references to a point where the total number of famous deaths should be stabilized.