The almighty film critics: opinion in a diffusion network, Part 2 (collaborative critique)

Posted: 20/09/2010 in ARIN6901 Network Society, Uncategorized

How “fresh” or “rotten” is your movie? Let the people decide.

Last week I wrote about how film critics are both important nodes and early adopters in the diffusion network through which a film gets introduced to potential audiences. I discussed how their opinion is still important when triggering a cascade that will lead towards profit margins and the popularity of the film. However, what we may call “the film critic model” is soon going loose (if it hasn’t happened already) its “throne”, as sites like Rotten Tomatoes call for  collaborative reviews in which critics are only a factor in the equation. Through percentages acquired by a collection of reviews and from the “like” or “dislake” of audiences, Rotten Tomatoes certifies the “freshness” of the innovation (see image below). However, it still establishes hierarchies, and isolates the “top critics” (Ebert and co.), preserving their status as opinion leaders. Therefore, Rotten Tomatoes is a bridge between traditional and new forms of film critique, as it empowers users to collaborate in the grading of a film (networked, collective knowledge) but is clear in defining that the opinion of critics is still more important in the process of reaching that critical mass that defines the financial failure or success of a film. Or is it? I believe that through the popularization of Web 3.0 applications that interpret the semantic web, the cloud, to define tendencies such as moviegoing preferences, the status of film critics will be diminished (their number of occasional and frequent readers -weak and strong ties- will subside), and the industry will be wholly ruled by the ever-present buzz surrounding pop culture artifacts and events.

In my view, what is good about this model is that it adds a communal element to film critique that is a reflection of the communal act of moviegoing itself. So, do you think film critics will survive? The video shown below -from Rotten Tomatoes’ YouTube channel- is an exemplar of the new power relations in this arena. There is no one opinion to rule them all, but a collaborative, divergent and thesis/antithesis approach to the validation of an innovation.


Basuroy, Suman, Subimal Chatterjee and  S. Abraham Ravid (2003) ‘How Critical Are Critical Reviews? The Box Office Effects of Film Critics, Star Power, and Budgets’ in The Journal of Marketing, Vol. 67, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 103-117

Rogers, Everett (2003) ‘Diffusion networks’ in Cross, Rob, Andrew Parker and Lisa Sasson (2003) Networks in the knowledge economy, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 130-179.

Watts, Duncan (2003) ‘Thresholds, cascades and predictability’ in Six degrees: the science of a connected age, New York and London: W. W. Norton, pp.220-252

For ARIN6901, Network Society, The University of Sydney (Master in Digital Communication and Culture).

  1. […] Part 2 of this post will deal with how web pages like Rotten Tomatoes bring together the evaluation of different opinion leaders and, by doing so, become opinion leaders in turn. […]

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