March 8, 2013 weblog
E-mail use model appears to follow "Clash of Civilizations" prediction
(Phys.org) —Researchers at Stanford University have built a model based on the frequency of e-mail interactions between groups of users of Yahoo! e-mail throughout the world. In studying their results, they have found, as they report in their paper they've uploaded to the preprint server arXiv, it appears to adhere to societal boundaries as described by Samuel Huntington's 1992 book "The Clash of Civilizations."
Huntington famously suggested in his book that future wars would revolve around cultural and religious differences and even offered a list of groups of people in them: Sinic, Hindu, Islamic, Latin American, Western, Orthodox, African and Buddhist.
The researchers at Stanford, led by Bogdan State, didn't set out to create a model that would reflect Huntington's vision, but instead found it came about on its own after the data was compiled and graphed. Their model is based on over ten million e-mail messages sent from Yahoo! users the world over. To show the degree of interaction between groups, the team used nodes and lines between them—the more transactions between groups, the closer they appear together on the model. They also carefully note that only Yahoo! users that agreed to have their data used in the study were included. To form geographic areas, the team compared IP numbers attached to messages with the location noted in a user's profile, using only those that coincided.
The resulting color-coded graphic model offers near instant visual clues regarding groups bound together by culture and perhaps religion. Perhaps more importantly it also shows boundaries, which State and his team claim, resemble the model first proposed by Huntington. Western nodes are clustered to form a single group with just a few outliers, for example, as are others such as those deemed Islamic, or South American.
The model doesn't hint at tensions between groups of course, but does seem to indicate that groups tend to communicate more via e-mail with others in their same group than they do with others from other groups, even if they share a physical border. Other patterns that show up indicate what would seem natural—that people who speak the same language tend to send more e-mails to each other than to people who don't. People in Great Britain for example, appear to send more e-mails to people in Australia than to people in other, much closer, European countries.
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 IP-geolocation 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.
via Arxiv Blog
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