University of Vermont

Homo Narrativus and the Trouble with Fame

Networks: We think that fame is deserved. We are wrong.

Illustration by Daniel Zalkus
Illustration by Daniel Zalkus

"Fame has much less to do with intrinsic quality than we believe it does, and much more to do with the characteristics of the people among whom fame spreads."

Our understanding of fame is critical to how we see each other and our society. But it is also badly wrong. Let me tell you why. We humans are storytelling and story-finding machines: homo narrativus, if you will. In making sense of the world, we look for the shapes of meaningful narratives in everything. Even in science, we enjoy mathematical equations and algorithms because they are a kind of universal story. Fluids—the oceans and atmosphere, the blood in your body, honey—all flow according to a single, beautiful set of equations called the Navier-Stokes equations.

Read the complete article in the recent "Fame" issue of Nautilus Magazine

Peter Sheridan Dodds is the director of Vermont Complex Systems Center