Extraordinary events are exceptional and leave lasting memories in participants’ minds and sometimes in those of a broader audience. Digital technologies, and social media in particular, seem to be playing a growing role in the occurrence of such events. We analyze the physical interactions between actors and their digital exchanges via social media, which shaped the emergence of an event that developed around an unexpectedly successful, self-directed street art phenomenon. Interviews, onsite observations, and statistical analyses of social media traces reveal patterns in which the physical event and its digital counterpart recursively nurtured each other. These factors operated as a complex dissipative system in which independent actors interacted within and across physical and digital boundaries. Physical activities influenced digital activities, which in turn affected artistic creation and fueled the public’s eagerness to participate, transforming the event into a large art happening. Empirical observations reveal that the digitalization of the art show shaped the emergence of the event and stabilized it by placing it in a state of dynamic equilibrium. The event’s evolution, measured by social media activity, followed a Power Law, indicative of a phenomenon induced by multiple interdependent interactions. This signifies the existence of a statistically extreme, rare event.
THIETART, R.A. et MALAURENT, J. (2023). How Do Social Media Contribute to the Emergence of “Extreme” Events? The Rise of Tour Paris 13: The “Sistine Chapel” of Street Art. Academy of Management Discoveries, In press.