Number Crunching Shows Old Movies Are More Creative Than New Ones

Adam Mann in Wired:

Bonnieandclyde-660x369Tell your film buff friends they’re right: the most creative period in cinema history was probably the 1960s. At least that’s the takeaway from a detailed data analysis of novel and unique elements in movies throughout much of the 20th century.

How do you objectively measure creativity in movies? Though there’s probably no perfect way, the recent research mined keywords generated by users of the website the Internet Movie Database(IMDb), which contains descriptions of more than 2 million films. When summarizing plots, people on the site are prompted to use keywords that have been used to describe previous movies, yielding tags that characterize particular genres (cult-film), locations (manhattan-new-york), or story elements (tied-to-a-chair).

Each keyword was given a score based on its rarity when compared to previous work. If some particular plot point – like, say, beautiful-woman – had appeared in many movies that preceded a particular film, it was given a low novelty value. But a new element – perhaps martial-arts, which appeared infrequently in films before the ’60s – was given a high novelty score when it first showed up. The scores ranged from zero to one, with the least novel being zero. Lining up the scores chronologically showed the evolution of film culture and plots over time. The results appeared Sept. 26 in Nature Scientific Reports.

More here.