A network framework of cultural history

M. Schich, C. Song, Y. Y. Ahn, A. Mirsky, M. Martino, A.-L. Barabási, D. Helbing
Science
345, 558-562 (2014).
August 1, 2014

Abstract

The emergent  processes driving cultural history are a product of complex interactions  among large numbers of individuals, determined by difficult-to-quantify  historical conditions. To characterize these processes, we have reconstructed  aggregate intellectual mobility over two millennia through the birth and  death locations of more than 150,000 notable individuals. The tools of  network and complexity theory were then used to identify characteristic  statistical patterns and determine the cultural and historical relevance of  deviations. The resulting network of locations provides a macroscopic  perspective of cultural history, which helps us to retrace cultural  narratives of Europe and North America using large-scale visualization and  quantitative dynamical tools and to derive historical trends of cultural  centers beyond the scope of specific events or narrow time intervals.