Cultural history via where notable people died

Aug 4, 2014

A group of researchers used where “notable individuals” were born and place of death, based on data from Freebase, as a lens into culture history. The video explainer below shows some results:

From Nature:

The team used those data to create a movie that starts in 600 bc and ends in 2012. Each person’s birth place appears on a map of the world as a blue dot and their death as a red dot. The result is a way to visualize cultural history — as a city becomes more important, more notable people die there.

Before you jump to too many conclusions, keep in mind where the data comes from. Freebase is kind of like Wikipedia for data, so you get cultural bias towards the United States and Europe. There are fewer data points just about everywhere else.

Therefore, avoid the inclination to think that such and such city or country looks unimportant, focus on the data that’s there and compare to what else is in the vicinity. From this angle, this is interesting stuff. [Science via Nature | Thanks, Mauro]

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