XI.4 Charting Culture

Mauro Martino

Maximillian Schich

University of Texas art historian Maximilian Schich and Mauro Martino, head of IBM’s Watson Cognitive Visualization Lab, created Charting Culture, which debuted in August of 2014 and went on to accumulate over 1 million views on YouTube.

In just five minutes, the animation covers 2,600 years of European and American history, from 600 BCE to 2012 CE, by tracking 120,000 individuals whose birth and death locations were recorded in the knowledge web Freebase. The figures whose migrations are traced are remarkably varied: from the Greek mathematician Pythagoras to the American Jazz Age entertainer Al Jolson, from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius to the Gothic painter Henry Fuseli, and from the composer Carl Maria von Weber to the father of sexuality studies, Havelock Ellis.

Birthplaces, represented by blue dots, are connected by arcs to places of death, denoted by red dots. The animation reveals how increased concentrations of death places indicate how different cultural centers rise and fall in importance: for instance, how Paris and London supplant the dominance of Rome, how New York pulls Europeans from their places of birth, and how America’s west coast lures Easterners to cross plains and mountains with promises of a new life. Further information on the data, making, and research behind this project can be found at http://cultsci.net.


Abbott, Alison. 2014. “Humanity’s Cultural History Captured in 5-Minute Film. Nature News. Last modified July 31, 2014. http://www.nature.com/news/humanity-s-cultural-history-captured-in-5-minute-film-1.15650.

Schich, Maximilian, Chaoming Song, Yong-Yeol Ahn, Alexander Mirsky, Mauro Martino, Albert-Lászlo Barabási, Dirk Helbing. 2014. “A Network Framework of Cultural History.” Science 345 (6196): 558-562.

Schich, Maximilian, and Mauro Martino. 2014. Charting Culture. Courtesy of www.cultsci.net. In “11th Iteration (2016): Macroscopes for Interacting with Science,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Lisel Record. http://scimaps.org.

Schich, Maximilian, Mauro Martino, et al. 2014 “Charting Culture.” YouTube. Last modified July 31, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gIhRkCcD4U.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.