Global communications and the mesh of civilizations

February 18, 2014 by H. Roger Segelken

It has been 20 years since political scientist Samuel P. Huntington published his influential "Clash of Civilizations" prediction that cultural differences and "fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future."

Now a team of social and information scientists has revisited Huntington's controversial prediction by tracing hundreds of millions of interpersonal emails and tweets around the globe. Their paper, "The Mesh of Civilizations in the Global Network of Interpersonal Communication," was presented Feb. 17 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago by Michael Macy, director of the Cornell Social Dynamics Laboratory. The paper is co-authored with Bogdan State of Stanford University, Ingmar Weber and Yelena Nejova of the Qatar Computing Research Institute, and Patrick Park, also of Cornell.

The anonymized email data were collected by State while interning at Yahoo in 2012, assisted by Weber and Mejova who worked for Yahoo Inc. when the research project began, geo-locating and pairing Yahoo email logs (without seeing the email text) and Twitter tweets among hundreds of millions of users worldwide. The researchers used the density of message traffic to measure the "density of " among users in different countries. That's how they were able to discern the digital-age "fault lines of civilization" – using the number of anonymous individuals in each country exchanging emails and Twitter messages with one another.

The researchers claim to have assembled one of the most complete global networks of social ties derived from the interpersonal flows of Internet communication.

Their AAAS presentation includes a network diagram of 90 countries, each colored according to membership in one of Huntington's eight "," termed Sinic, Hindu, Islamic, Latin American, Western, Orthodox, African and Buddhist. The researchers say the diagram "reveals visually striking evidence that online social ties are much stronger within civilizations than between." Although Huntington questioned the possibility for a "universal civilization," Macy notes that "The Clash of Civilizations" was written "before our species gravitated to the borderless web of the cyber world where citizens regularly defy the parochial efforts of nation states. Nevertheless," he laments, "we found little evidence that online communication is bridging the of civilization."

Explore further: E-mail use model appears to follow "Clash of Civilizations" prediction

More information: The abstract is available here: aaas.confex.com/aaas/2014/webp … gram/Paper11531.html

Related Stories

Yahoo Mail trouble hits fourth day

December 12, 2013

An outage at Yahoo Mail hit its fourth day on Thursday, prompting thousands of furious users to ratchet up their criticism on social media.

Recommended for you

Plague likely a Stone Age arrival to central Europe

November 22, 2017

A team of researchers led by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has sequenced the first six European genomes of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis dating from the Late Neolithic ...

How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers

November 22, 2017

Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximise the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after ...

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.