Mapping the Migration of Western Culture Over 2,000 Years

A UT Dallas team visualizes the travels of 100,000 historic figures.
Maximilian Schich's animation of Western cultural migration (YouTube/Quartz)

If you want to map cultural hubs throughout time, you can track where history’s most notable figures—like Leonardo da Vinci, Jane Austen, and Steve Jobs—were born and died. That was the thinking of Maximilian Schich, associate professor for art and technology at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Schich and his team took data on more than 100,000 notable figures—people important enough to have their births and deaths cataloged—from Google’s information tank, Freebase, and digitally plotted it on a map visualizing changes over hundreds of yearsBlue dots signify births, red dots mark deathsThe more dots in a given location, the bigger the visualizationThe result is a mesmerizing, animated timeline tracking the geography of culture and the origins of the hub contributors.

While it may not be surprising that Rome and Paris were huge centers of cultural activity in the 16th and 17th centuries, and that Hollywood is now taking over that spotlight, it’s interesting to see how the progression unfolded and who fueled it—all in a five-minute clip.


This post appears courtesy of Quartz.

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Jeanne Kim is an editorial fellow with Quartz.

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