Theses Doctoral

Elements of Innovators' Fame: Social Structure, Creativity and Identity

Banerjee, Mitali

What makes an innovator famous? This is the principal question of this dissertation. I examine three potential drivers of the innovators’ fame – their social structure, creativity and identity. My empirical context is the early 20th century abstract artists in 1910-25. The period represents a paradigmatic shift in the history of modern art, the emergence of the abstract art movement. In chapter 2, I operationalize social structure by an innovator’s local peer network. I find that an innovator with structurally and compositionally diverse local network is likely to be more famous than the one with a homogenous local network. I find no statistical evidence for creativity as a link between social structure and fame. Instead, the evidence suggests that an innovator’s creative identity and access to promotional opportunities are the key drivers of her fame. In Chapter 3, I find that the creativity identity resulting from an innovator’s creative trajectory can lead to obscurity despite early fame and acclaim. The drastic change in the nature of a producer’s output can dilute her identity and cost her her niche. In combination with her peer network characteristics, these dynamics can mean obscurity even for talented and prolific innovators. In chapter 4, I undertake a large-scale analysis of the relationship between creativity and fame. Using a novel computational measure for the novelty of the artists’ works, I explore how their creativity and fame evolve over 1905-2000 in five markets. I find no statistical evidence for a positive relationship between creativity and fame; in fact, the statistical evidence is in favor of a negative relationship between creativity and fame through several time periods. The results suggest that creativity (measured by expert or machines) is not a driver of fame. In effect, it further supports the conclusions of chapter 2 and 3.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Phillips, Damon
Ingram, Paul L
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 23, 2017