Saturday, March 16, 2013

um, no: people who speak the same language email one another...,

technologyreview | In 1992, the Harvard-based political scientist Samuel Hartington suggested that future conflicts would be driven largely by cultural differences. He went on to map out a new world order in which the people of the world are divided into nine culturally distinct civilisations.

These include: Western civilisation; Latin American civilisation; the Orthodox world of former Soviet Union countries; the Sinic civilisation including China, the Koreas and Vietnam; the Muslim world of the greater Middle East; Sub-Saharan Africa and so on.

His argument was that future conflicts would be based around the fault lines at the edges of these civilisations. He published this view in a now famous article called“The Clash of Civilizations in the politcal journal Foreign Affairs.

Certain events have since been used to support Huntington’s thesis–the War on Terror, for instance. But an interesting question is whether there is evidence at the social scale of a “Clash of Civilisations”.

Today, we get an answer of sorts thanks to the work of Bogdan State at Stanford University in California and a few pals. These guys have analysed a global database of e-mail messages, and their locations, sent by  more than 10 million people over the space of a year. State and co say that the pattern of connections between these people, clearly reflects the civilisations mapped out by Huntington. In other words, the way we send e-mails is a reflection of the mesh of civilisations that is an important driver of future conflict.

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