Friday, May 1, 3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite
Research Hall, Third Floor

The IMDb Film Connections Network and Objective Evaluation of Movie Significance

Max Wasserman, Ph.D.
Applied Math from Northwestern University
Amaral Lab Alumnus

ABSTRACT: Modern filmmaking is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the effect of Hollywood movies on our culture is profound. However, the influence of films on other films is not easily quantified, as artists, unlike scientists, have no obligation to cite their sources of inspiration. Fortunately, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)---a popular, user-contributed website containing extensive information on movies and other visual media---happens to include a section that lists examples of "connections" (citations or references) between films. From this list of connections, one can construct a complex network of citations between films that serves as an analog to the scientific citations network. In this talk, I discuss my extensive analysis of the film connections network and my attempts to study and quantify the spread of influence in filmmaking. In particular, I consider the length of citations in the network, uncovering a surprising trend in the citation pattern of films. This leads me to develop an automated metric for estimating the cultural significance of a film. This metric out-performs several other expert- and network-based measurements at identifying films present in the United States National Film Registry. These methods can conceivably be applied towards evaluating the significance of other creative works and even scientific research.

This talk is adapted from my dissertation defense.