Global e-mail patterns reveal ‘clash of civilizations’

March 6, 2013

The mesh of civilizations in e-mail patterns (credit: Bogdan State et al.)

The global pattern of e-mail communication reflects the cultural fault lines thought to determine future conflict, say computational social scientists.

In 1992, the Harvard-based political scientist Samuel Huntington 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 civilizations.

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

Now Bogdan State at Stanford University and associates have analyzed a global database of e-mail messages and their locations, sent by  more than 10 million people over the space of a year, MIT Technology Review reports.

They say the pattern of connections (especially email) between these people, clearly reflects the civilizations mapped out by Huntington.

UPDATE: Typo corrected: “Huntington” not “Harlington” as stated in Technology Review.