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Barnacle Boys and Information Cascades

R.I.P Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob, 11/27/2018.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Now if you don’t know the answer to that question, it is likely that you live under a rock. Let’s talk about SpongeBob SquarePants. This show is arguably one of the most influential cartoons of our lifetimes. At the time that this article was written, SpongeBob still managed to pull in 45 million regular viewers every month after 10 years of being on air. It’s important to note that number is only counting people over the age of 18. These are insane numbers, and no other cartoon really even comes close to the success that SpongeBob has seen. In fact, within 1 month on the air, SpongeBob overtook Pokemon as the highest rated Saturday morning show for children.

So what does this have to do with Networks? The implications are obvious, but still worth our attention. We know that information cascades occur when the market being examined gets past a “tipping point” in its success that causes all nodes involved in the market to ultimately conform to one product. For example, if there is a group of 10 friends, and 8 of those 10 friends enjoy watching boxing, it is likely that the remaining two friends will pick up the habit of watching boxing. This is essentially what happened with SpongeBob, but on an epic and explosive scale. Within one month the show had blown past the “tipping point” that was required to start the cascade. As SpongeBob grew to dominate the cartoon network of the United States, its popularity showed no signs of slowing down and quickly sparked an international cascade. SpongeBob is a perfect example of how powerful an information cascade can be, and the social implications that accompany them.


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