For thousands of years mankind has tried to accurately measure the natural turns of a coastline, a bend of river or the cliffs in a seabed. Not until 1967 did an IBM employee create a method, fractal geometry, that could account for the natural bends, the nooks and crannies of nature, to accurately measure each.
My hypothesis is that this fractal concept can also be used to help us see and understand the bends, the nooks and crannies of human emotion. This "Fractal Emotion" can give us strategies to understand the emotional makeup and engage with people using everyday human expressions brilliantly revealing themselves on the human canvas of social media today.
At a glance social media looks unique, but seeing the recurring makeup of people's output, patterns become as visible as the repetitive fractal patterns of a maple leaf. This matters as we can now find an underlying guiding foundation for what seems like random human chatter. We can begin to see the natural human patterns that make up this new world and make it a better place.
Fractal Geometry is the study of self-similar structures and is at the conceptual core of understanding nature's complexity. Benoît Mandelbrot was that IBM employee who successfully measured the coastline of England in 1967, coined the term fractal in 1975 and opened new worlds in mathematics and now, I believe, human emotional understanding.
"The existence of these patterns [fractals] challenges us to study forms that Euclid leaves aside as being formless, to investigate the morphology of the amorphous. Mathematicians have disdained this challenge, however, and have increasingly chosen to flee from nature by devising theories unrelated to anything we can see or feel."
— Benoit Mandelbrot The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1977)
Measuring and Arranging Things We Can Feel
Nature displays a cascade of complexity, from the organization of the galaxies to our repeating strands of DNA. Social media is of that natural world; it comes from the thoughts, desires, needs and urges of real human beings. What appears in my media I chose to put there and share; it comes from the natural choice that I make, driven by an emotion-influenced part of me. That natural choice is driven by how people feel, their emotional state at that time. What they like, don't like, trust and don't trust.
In total, our social media begins to reveal that these fractal repetitive patterns that Mandelbrot uncovered in the natural order, also exist within us. Our expressions released on the canvas of social media reveal the fractal, natural patterns of our emotional makeup. Viewing hundreds of thousands of people's profiles, platforms and blogs across social media, one can see the repetitive patterns of fractal geometry revealed in their repeated content, flavor and style.
The mathematicians and engineers that Mandelbrot has accused of fleeing the natural … they built our digital, online world. What they created is now being taken over by the masses, the people, who insert their complex passions, feelings, emotions and creativity and should be recognized in their own natural order.
We are now taking the baton from the engineers and the mathematicians and we can decode these human fractal patterns as we can the repetitive patterns in that maple leaf. The answers will help us become more connected, more astute at engaging people beyond our own fractal emotional worldview.
Gaudi's Imagination Can Play At Will
Gaudi, the prolific artist and architect, revealed his emotive brilliance in fractal patterns that looked totally unique, but upon closer examination reveal the fractal, repetitive geometry in his design. Gaudi's fractal design still dazzles; his curved line social approach resonates with some of us in a deeply emotional way. Gaudi visually brought fractal architecture to life before the term was coined.
Imagine Gaudi today with a blog, a MySpace page, on Twitter and Facebook, creating widgets… developing new ways to communicate his vision. He would not fit the patterns of the contemporary Euclids and Newtons who built the last 15 years of digital capabilities and content. Gaudi would release his natural fractal genius to provide backbones around which his imagination could play at will.
In our community, we are all attracted to our own Gaudis now, creating on a digital canvas, building with the tools of our day. Like Gaudi, social networkers use repeating patterns that bring to life their vision to share with their friends. We all have our own fractal hue, our prism, and many of us all look and feel similar to each other. You could say that we are just one leaf looking for our pile of leaves from the same fractal tree.
People Build with Your Fractal Building Blocks
The fractal nature of social media is being revealed and communities identified based on what they like. Marketers should now be thinking and acting differently... thinking fractal building blocks over time, not campaigns with beginning and ends. These fractal building blocks give brands a chance to become a real part of the social platform of peoples lives, visible for all their friends to see and experience over time.
The building block approach means offering multiple types of branded creative content that attracts different types of people who will choose to pull that into their entire social world. The Gaudis of our day can help design and differentiate your fractal patterns.
You see this happening now with social tools like widgets, apps, blogs, platforms etc. Each of these will have multiple fractal patterns and variations from each other that appeal to multiple types of people who pick and choose your content as it aligns with their fractal makeup. It is just beginning.
Over time these blocks accumulate; they do not end, close or cancel… they become real parts of the social identity of groups of people. Branded blocks become valuable and together the blocks connect over time to truly extend the value of the brand in that person's world.
If done right, people will value your branded fractals like their collections of albums, comic books, applications and other emotional attachments and your brand will be in the center of their passion.
…To be continued
Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright Tom Troja 2008 - Fractal Geometry, Human Emotion and Social marketing