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Scott Westenberger

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Scott Westenberger

About

Prior to Stanford, I worked as a military intelligence analyst where I received specialized training in social network analysis and counter-insurgency operations. In the military, one of the main goals of this work was to understand how seemingly random, micro-level terrorist acts can trigger macro-level disruption with strategic-level effects. At Stanford, my research has continued to focus on uncovering the mechanisms by which micro-level social activity yield macro-level social change, but the outcome variable is now much more benign. Today, my work focuses on the wildly unpredictable world of fads and fashions. Throughout my dissertation I attempt to uncover demand-side mechanisms and processes relevant to understanding macro-level popularity fluctuations and consumption trends, with the goal of better understanding the rise and fall of popularity in pop culture markets like music and movies. My research agenda further includes topics on social networks, social influence, and the structure and evolution of “taste.”

Dissertation Abstract
Why do we like the things that we like? Why do our tastes change over time, and why are we unable to predict these changes in advance?  Despite a long tradition of research into these questions, it remains notoriously difficult to predict which previously unpopular and unfashionable things will become fashionable or popular tomorrow, and even more difficult to anticipate the reverse. Over the course of three separate but thematically connected empirical studies, I deploy a combination of empirical approaches (agent-based simulation models, a survey experiment, analysis of population-level survey data) and work to uncover demand-side mechanisms and processes relevant to understanding macro-level popularity fluctuations and consumption trends. Altogether, the three studies contribute to ongoing debates regarding the mechanisms governing fashion change.