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Categories: trend theory

Why are there such things as trends?

history of Science Fiction trends infographic

history of Science Fiction trends infographic

As a culture why do we adhere to fads and fashion.

The word trend is used interchangeably with fad, although a fad usually implies a temporary behavior, whereas a trend is considered to develop into a relatively permanent change.

We want to group things. It makes it simpler. There is so much stuff going on around us, we have to sort it in to categories.

The physical world as experienced through the senses, would be a meaningless jumble of disorganized data (much like TV interference ), if it wasn’t for grouping.

‘Perceptual grouping refers to the human visual ability to extract significant image relations from lower-level primitive image…’

Perceptual grouping demonstrated in Richard Gregory's Dalmatian image

Perceptual grouping demonstrated in Richard Gregory's Dalmatian image

Perceptual grouping is explored in detail by Gestalt philosophers.

It is easier for us to see by looking for a pattern. Proving the existence of an all encompassing theory, or a pattern, has been the quest of mathematicians and mystics alike.

So trends are a pattern that we impose upon similar occurrences. Although trends do reoccur, they are different each time.

A fashion from 50 years ago might influence and inspire the designers of today, although it is unlikely to be identical to the original. Each time an idea is reused it is changed, even if this is just by context alone.

Past success are built upon, refined, recycled and re-purposed. Reuse of proven ideas has the added advantage of being familiar. We fear the unknown. The new idea, is an unknown, a familiar concept is therefore safer.

all you need is love - The Beatles

All You Need Is Love - The Beatles

There are original ideas conceived, contrary to The Beatles song ‘All You Need Is Love’ “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.” Many new ideas are not appreciated until long after. The past has shown occasion when the establishment has felt threatened by the new.

painting of Galileo and Viviani by Tito Lessi

painting of Galileo and Viviani by Tito Lessi

Galileo famously was suppressed by the Church for his theories of a Heliocentric solar system, where the sun is in the center.
Only till after his death were his hypothesis accepted.

Theories that threaten the established format are hard for us to comprehend.

Why do we almost unwittingly reference greatness of the past?

What is it we wish to emulate?

Do we replicate what has come before, because we know it is a safe action?

We fear the unknown. Familiar is therefore safe.

It is easier to copy someone who has done it before.


Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants

Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants

Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants

The metaphor was first recorded in the twelfth century and attributed to Bernard of Chartres a French Neo-Platonist philosopher. According to medieval historian Richard Southern, Bernard is comparing the modern scholar (12th century) to the ancient scholars of Greece and Rome

It was famously uttered by seventeenth-century scientist Isaac Newton. The saying ‘we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants’ seems to be a metaphor for our increased understanding, due to the cumulative nature of knowledge.


There is indeed an evolutionary pattern to the meme. It dies but gives birth to something different but similar enough to be familiar and reassuring.

So the meme is copied and mixed with something new, in order to prevent the host from rejecting the idea. Similar tolerance to any stimuli, can be also observed with concepts and belief systems.

Over arching patterns

sine waves

sine waves

Trends rise and fall like a wave.

Forming a spiral wave form.

spiral wave

spiral wave

Energy recycled and mixed with time.

Energy, recycled and stretched into a spiral wave over time.

Sharp Spiral borrowed from screen-dream.de

Three dimensional representation of a spiral

Reoccurring cumulative instances of self reflections.

that reach a drop off point and sink into submission and obscurity.

Awareness of it drops and majority public opinion turns against it. A hardcore group will stay interested, and carry the trend over to the next re inception .

With the data available now it is possible to chart the popularity of trends easily.

Harry Potter on Google Trends

Harry Potter on Google Trends


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