Only So Far

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While some argue that the world’s major cities are becoming identical and characterless as the result of expanding, global networks, some experts argue that individualism will always trend within regions. One interesting perspective of this notion is through the lens of popular fashion and clothing design. Valerie Steele’s New York Times article, “The Homogenization Of Street Style” highlights unique fashion trends of nations from Japan to the US. She claims that while modern New York styles, including hip hop and casual sporty are very present in Tokyo, fashions like punk, which faded from the popular New York scene long ago, have continued to sell in Japan. In fact, the Japanese have added original color and texture to punk styles in recent years. Steele reflects, “Despite the homogenization created by fast fashion, young people around the world remain concerned with individual self-expression. Do-it-yourself styles based in part on second-hand clothes play an important role in street style in many countries.” It appears the expansion of networks and increased cross-cultural connections can only go so far. While the world’s shared internet and media have certainly caused obvious global homogenization, it is interesting to note that certain cultural elements such as fashion sometimes become even more unique. People continue to cherish cultural identity and take pride in innovation. Citizens of nations will create and destroy trends voluntarily; when a society votes for styles and products to become popular with their money, there will always remain the thought of individuality. Many young people, especially, will pay for products that define their own societal uniqueness. Perhaps the ties within their own culture are stronger, so individuality becomes more important than homogenization for some cultural components.

As we look deeper, we see that this is actually related to epidemics and branching processes. One way it fits this model is because the nodes in the network being affected can either carry on the fashion trend (R0 = PK > 1) or die out because the disease isn’t able to replenish itself, even if it grows momentarily (R0 = PK < 1). An important distinction to make is the biological versus information epidemic. If somebody coughs on you, the probability stays the same that you get sick. If somebody, or multiple people try to influence you with a fashion trend or information, it matters who those people are and what your relationship to them is. The ties between people within Tokyo are going to be stronger and more influential than people in different countries. Therefore, what might be happening with these fashion trends within Tokyo, for example, is that the P component is high because the influence is strong in the densely populated city. This means R0 is more likely greater than 1 and the trend continues. Note that K population remains fairly constant. This article made me wonder if individuality and the desire to be unique can be infectious in a culture. I’m thinking yes, based on these findings.

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