How ‘Kardashian’ are you?

Kim Kardashian’s claim to fame is her ability to attract attention, says MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Lord & Taylor
Kim Kardashian’s claim to fame is her ability to attract attention, says MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman.

Is their domination complete? Perhaps. With more reality TV shows, fragrances, clothing lines, and good hair than any one family deserves, the Kardashians now have their own units of measurement. Two of them.

The first was inspired by Kim Kardashian’s brief marriage to Kris Humphries, and coined by “Weird Al” Yankovic: “72 Days is now an official unit of time known as a Kardash,” he proclaimed, according to the Urban Dictionary.

The second comes to us from Ethan Zuckerman, the director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, and seemingly the anti-Kardashian. He’s the cofounder of Global Voices, an international community of bloggers seeking to bring attention to those who need it. He also works as a researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. He’s so self-deprecating that a picture on his own website shows him standing in front of two elephants, with a caption that reads, “I’m the one on the right.”


This is the man who coined the second term: A “Kardash­ian.” It’s a measure of attention based on the amount of global attention Kim Kardashian commands across all media over the space of a day.

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By comparing any search term to Kim Kardashian, Zuckerman said, “you can discover how small a fraction of a ‘Kardashian’ any given issue or cause merits.”

While there may not be a need for the Kardashians themselves, at a time when attention has become a form of currency, there is a need for a scientific way to measure it. Hence, the “Kardashian.”

“It seems so helpful,” its coiner said, “because as near as I can tell, they are famous for their ability to attract attention completely disconnected from achievement or merit.”

And how does Zuckerman rank on the Kardashian scale? “I command microKardash­ians.”

Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.