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Hong Kong Street Performances and Information Cascades

As urban planning researcher Carine Lai recalls her travels through Hong Kong, she recounts the bustling streets and crowds of people she encounters. Hong Kong is well known for having noisy streets that reflect the vibrant life of the city. Sai Yeung Choi Street in particular is best known for being the hub of street performance. 95% of the artists are locals, the majority being musical or dance oriented, which has led to an increase in competition for street show space. While roads in the popular shopping areas are currently closed off for performers and pedestrians, many urban researchers and city planners debate over how these performing areas can be better managed spatially.

In addition to finding a spot to perform, drawing a crowd to watch and cheer on a performance is even harder to do successfully. In an area with so many performances happening simultaneous, it is hard to win people’s attention. There is a continuous fight with others to draw a crowd, but once you get a stream of people coming over to watch, that’s when the crow continues to grow. Growing a crowd is almost like a self fulfilling information cascade. If people think the act will be good and go to watch it, then the crowd grows. If they think it’s bad and don’t go over, few people will do the same and go over. Take a group of 10 people each with the choice to either watch on not watch. Person 1 choses to watch. Person 2 choose to watch. Because of Person 1 and Person 2’s decisions, the majority of people in the group are going to choose to watch, regardless of what they are thinking internally, which leads to the entire group watching. This is like the information cascade effect. Furthermore, once other observers sees a crowd gather at one particular act, this will pull them in too, which makes the crowd even bigger and encourages even more people to come. On the flipside, if an act has no observers, people will merely walk by and rarely will they challenge the information trend and give that act a chance.


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