Groundbreaking research maps cultural historyBreaking News
tags: cultural history
New research from Northeastern University has mapped the intellectual migration network in North America and Europe over a 2,000-year span. The team of network scientists used the birth and death locations of more than 150,000 intellectuals to map their mobility patterns in order to identify the major cultural centers on the two continents over two millennia.
In the new paper, published Friday in the journal Science, the researchers found that various cities have emerged at various times in history as cultural hubs as more intellectuals died in those cities than elsewhere—regardless of where they were born. For example, Rome was a major cultural hub until the late 18th century, at which point Paris took over the reins. Additionally, the findings reveal that the distance between the birth and death locations of notable individuals has not increased much over the span of eight centuries—a remarkable showcase of human mobility patterns—despite the fact that colonization and transportation improvements have increased long-distance travel.
“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’sCenter for Complex Network Research. “The observed rapid changes offer a fascinating view of the transience of intellectual supremacy.”
In their paper, Maximilian Schich, the lead author and former visiting research scientist in the center, Barabási, and their co-authors presented a variety of new findings. 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.
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...
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