Monday, May 14, 2007


We for some reason live in a society bounded and defined by lists and tables, sets of statistics which show the prevalence of, or popularity of, this, that, or the other. It's always interesting, I find, to see the results of large scale polls of people's opinions on the value of works of art, people or things - because whilst one person generally will not give a true ranking of their favourite things*, if you take an average opinion of a large group of people you generally end up with a result which is either an accurate repesentation of people's opinions or a fascinating hint as to the shared aspirations and affectations of the polled group.

The thing that started me on this train of thought was some of the new features on facebook - specifically the group statistics. These are a selection of top ten lists based on the books, bands, films, TV Shows and interests which appear most frequently in people's favourite things lists and they are quite interesting to read. I'll reproduce the lists for the university of Kent group here:

Top Music

1. Muse
2. The Killers
3. Snow Patrol
4. Oasis
5. Razorlight
6. The Kooks
7. Coldplay
8. Foo Fighters
9. Radiohead
10. U2

People are generally rather more confident about what they like and dislike when it comes to music than they are with other things - This list doesn't really tell you anything other than show you dazzlingly broad spectrum of student musical tastes, covering the full range of middle class white folk music, from 'hipper than thou' to 'super-ultra-bland'.

Top Movies

1. Pulp Fiction
2. Fight Club
3. Gladiator
4. Shawshank Redemption
5. Snatch
6. Goodfellas
7. Anchorman
8. Dirty Dancing
9. Lord Of The Rings
10. Donnie Darko

does anyone understand donnie darko, really? And why are university students so obsessed with very violent films like 1,2,3,5, and 6? is it because they don't often hurt people in real life so they like to do it vicariously whilst pretending to be a gangster?

Top TV

1. Scrubs
2. Family Guy
3. Friends
4. Lost
5. Desperate Housewives
6. Simpsons
7. Prison Break
8. Hollyoaks
9. Futurama
10. 24

It's kinda depressing that all but one of the shows on here is a high budget american studio effort, and the one english production is a godawful soap opera.

Top Interests

1. Music
2. Reading
3. Travelling
4. Football
5. Drinking
6. Shopping
7. Dancing
8. Art
9. Sleeping
10. Films

I'm pretty sure that no. 7 means 'getting twatted at the venue and twitching about the dancefloor until I'm carried home' and no. 3 means 'I went on a gap year... did I mention that I went on a gap year? I went on a gap year you know.'

Top Books

1. 1984
2. Harry Potter
3. Lord Of The Rings
4. The Da Vinci Code
5. To Kill A Mockingbird*
6. Birdsong*
7. Pride And Prejudice
8. Memoirs Of A Geisha
9. Catcher In The Rye*
10. Lord Of The Flies*

I've only read seven of these, no.s 4, 7 and 8 being the exceptions (and I've never finished 3 - it's too boring.) I think 1984 is probably top because it's well known and shows that you think about like, political things, and stuff. The starred ones are common set texts at either A level or GCSE.

I'd be curious to see what the results are for other groups, other demographics etc, to see how different segments of life, even different universities differ. And what they say about the group in question in relation to other groups.

I was also going to mention the lists I quickly wrote down when I was supposed to be revising, but that seems like too much of a tangent now. I'll write about that at some other point.


* Yes, the footnotes are back - this one was too big to leave in the body text and I couldn't be bothered to rearrange the sentence structure to incorporate it properly, because I'm lazy like that, anyway, the footnote - They will, to some degree, give a selection of their favourite things, but it is one tailored to impress or create an impression on the person they are being asked by - it may not be a conscious thing, but people do it nonetheless. Now that you've read this you'll probably completely lose track of the meaning of the sentence you were reading. sorry.