Understanding Fashion Cycles as a Social Choice

We present a formal model for studying fashion trends, in terms of three parameters of fashionable items: (1) their innate utility; (2) individual boredom associated with repeated usage of an item; and (3) social influences associated with the preferences from other people. While there are several works that emphasize the effect of social influence in understanding fashion trends, in this paper we show how boredom plays a strong role in both individual and social choices. We show how boredom can be used to explain the cyclic choices in several scenarios such as an individual who has to pick a restaurant to visit every day, or a society that has to repeatedly `vote' on a single fashion style from a collection. We formally show that a society that votes for a single fashion style can be viewed as a single individual cycling through different choices. In our model, the utility of an item gets discounted by the amount of boredom that has accumulated over the past; this boredom increases with every use of the item and decays exponentially when not used. We address the problem of optimally choosing items for usage, so as to maximize over-all satisfaction, i.e., composite utility, over a period of time. First we show that the simple greedy heuristic of always choosing the item with the maximum current composite utility can be arbitrarily worse than the optimal. Second, we prove that even with just a single individual, determining the optimal strategy for choosing items is NP-hard. Third, we show that a simple modification to the greedy algorithm that simply doubles the boredom of each item is a provably close approximation to the optimal strategy. Finally, we present an experimental study over real-world data collected from query logs to compare our algorithms.

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