America’s brain drain

Aug 2, 2014 by

It is an incredible visualization of how the world developed.

Researchers have tracked the movement of 150,000 ‘notable people around the world’.

By tracking their location from 1600 until 2012, they show spread of disease, the rise of conflict, and the evolution of cities.

Quantifying and transforming the history of culture into visual representation isn’t easy, the researchers said.

There are thousands of individual stories, across thousands of years, to consider, and some historical conditions are nearly impossible to measure.

Dr. Maximilian Schich, associate professor of arts and technology at The University of Texas at Dallas, brought together a team of network and complexity scientists, including University of Miami physicist Chaoming Song, to create and quantify a big picture of European and North American cultural history.

Schich and his fellow researchers reconstructed the migration and mobility patterns of more than 150,000 notable individuals over a time span of two thousand years.

By connecting the birth and death locations of each individual, and drawing and animating lines between the two locations, Schich and his team have made progress in our understanding of large-scale cultural dynamics.

‘By tracking the migration of notable individuals for over two millennia, we could for the first time explore the boom and bust of the cultural centers of the world,’ said Albert-László Barabási, Robert Gray Dodge Professor of Network Science and director of Northeastern’s Center for Complex Network Research.

‘The observed rapid changes offer a fascinating view of the transience of intellectual supremacy.’

For example, despite the arts’ dependence on money, the cultural hubs that attracted the most intellectuals were not necessarily economic hubs.

In addition, they found that by the 16th century, Europe appeared to be characterized by two radically different cultural regimes: a ‘winner-takes-all’ regime with countries where an individual city attracts a substantial and constant flow of intellectuals (i.e.: Paris, France) and a ‘fit-gets-richer’ regime with cities within a federal region (i.e.: Germany) competing with each other for their share of intellectuals, only being able to attract a fraction of that population in any given century.

2011 in Central Europe saw an explosion in travel among the 'notable' people tracked by the study

2011 in Central Europe saw an explosion in travel among the ‘notable’ people tracked by the study

‘The study draws a surprisingly comprehensive picture of European and North American cultural interaction that can’t be otherwise achieved without consulting vast amounts of literature or combing discrete datasets,’ Schich said.

The map shows how countries such as Britain become 'hubs' for the global population of important people.

The map shows how countries such as Britain become ‘hubs’ for the global population of important people.

The team also found that there is no such thing as an average cultural center or average attractiveness consistent among locations. In fact, they scale and fluctuate heavily over time due to a variety of factors.

For example, while intellectuals have always flocked to New York City in great numbers, it was an even bigger source of talent in the 1920s, being the birthplace of a significant portion of individuals in the data set.

Additionally, locations like Hollywood, the Alps, and the French Riviera, which have not produced a large number of notable figures, have become, at different points in history, major destinations for intellectuals, perhaps initially emerging for reasons such as the location’s beauty or climate.

They relied on large data sets, including the curated General Artist Lexicon that consists exclusively of artists and includes more than 150,000 names and Freebase with roughly 120,000 individuals, 2,200 of whom are artists.

Through this novel approach, they identified a clear set of geographical patterns that would not be recognized using traditional quantitative historical methods.

The third data set, the Getty Union List of Artist Names, was used to validate the results of the other two.

‘This study functions like a macro-scope, where quantitative and qualitative inquiry complement each other.’

Quantitative analysis involves objective, measureable data, while qualitative inquiry relies on subjective or ‘apparent’ qualities.

Schich and his colleagues collected the birth and death data from three databases to track migration networks within and out of Europe and North America, revealing a pattern of geographical birth sources and death attractors.

A key finding in the study, Schich says, is that non-intuitive fundamental patterns, including the so-called “laws of migration,” emerge from large numbers of specific events.

The team also found evidence for massive fluctuations on a level of single specific locations.

‘In practice, this means that cultural history is both an event discipline, where qualitative inquiry focuses on the specific, and a law discipline, where quantification helps to understand general patterns,’ Schich said.

Other findings show that despite the dependence of the arts on money, cultural centers and economic centers do not always coincide, and that the population size of a location does not necessarily point to its cultural attractiveness.

‘In fact, outliers with outstanding cultural attraction, such as Hollywood, Calif., where we find 10 times more notable deaths as births, are found at all sizes, from villages to metroplexes,’ Schich said.

In addition, the median physical distance between birth and death locations changed very little between the 14th and 21st centuries, from about 214 kilometers (133 miles) to about 382 km (237 miles), respectively.

‘There is really no average or typical cultural center,’ Schich added.

‘As a consequence, cultural historians really need quantification to complement their intuition based on qualitative inquiry.

2011 in the Us saw huge travel between the East and West Coast, with LA, New York and Dan Francisco all featuring heavily.

2011 in the Us saw huge travel between the East and West Coast, with LA, New York and Dan Francisco all featuring heavily.

‘On the other hand, our results also send a message to complexity scientists.

The massive fluctuations we find mean that qualitative inquiry has to complement quantification in order to fully understand the dynamics of cultural migration.’

Schich said the topic of art and cultural history is an uncommon topic for papers in journals such as Science.

‘A large amount of multidisciplinary expertise was necessary to arrive at the results we found,’ Schich said.

‘The paper relies on the fields of art history, complex networks, complexity science, computational sociology, human mobility, information design, physics and some inspiration from systems biology.’

via How America grew Incredible animation shows the population of notable people expanding from 1600 to 2012 | Mail Online.

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