Saturday, March 09, 2013

We are still divided by culture and language

"The Mesh of Civilizations and International Email Flows" is a recent paper by a group of researchers.

In The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington argued that the primary axis of global conflict was no longer ideological or economic but cultural and religious, and that this division would characterize the “battle lines of the future.” In contrast to the "top down" approach in previous research focused on the relations among nation states, we focused on the flows of interpersonal communication as a bottom-up view of international alignments. To that end, we mapped the locations of the world’s countries in global email networks to see if we could detect cultural fault lines. Using IPgeolocation on a worldwide anonymized dataset obtained from a large Internet company, we constructed a global email network. In computing email flows we employ a novel rescaling procedure to account for differences due to uneven adoption of a particular Internet service across the world. Our analysis shows that email flows are consistent with Huntington’s thesis. In addition to location in Huntington’s “civilizations,” our results also attest to the importance of both cultural and economic factors in the patterning of inter-country communication ties.
The Latin American countries (lavender nodes) cluster in the bottom of the diagram, strongly interconnected among themselves. Many of the Islamic countries (green nodes) also cluster among themselves, but not all (perhaps the core cluster are Arab and the Asian Islamic nations are somewhat separate). Indeed local clusters appear for each cultural group. Note however that the African nations (yellow nodes) tend to communicate with Western nations more than among themselves.

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