Dr. Maximilian Schich, associate professor of arts and technology at The University of Texas at Dallas, brought together a team of network and complexity scientists, including University of Miami physicist Chaoming Song, to create and quantify a big picture of European and North American cultural history.
Schich and his fellow researchers reconstructed the migration and mobility patterns of more than 150,000 notable individuals over a time span of two thousand years.
By connecting the birth and death locations of each individual, and drawing and animating lines between the two locations, Schich and his team have made progress in our understanding of large-scale cultural dynamics.
'By tracking the migration of notable individuals for over two millennia, we could for the first time explore the boom and bust of the cultural centers of the world,' said Albert-László Barabási, Robert Gray Dodge Professor of Network Science and director of Northeastern's Center for Complex Network Research.
'The observed rapid changes offer a fascinating view of the transience of intellectual supremacy.'
For example, despite the arts' dependence on money, the cultural hubs that attracted the most intellectuals were not necessarily economic hubs.
In addition, they found that by the 16th century, Europe appeared to be characterized by two radically different cultural regimes: a 'winner-takes-all' regime with countries where an individual city attracts a substantial and constant flow of intellectuals (i.e.: Paris, France) and a 'fit-gets-richer' regime with cities within a federal region (i.e.: Germany) competing with each other for their share of intellectuals, only being able to attract a fraction of that population in any given century.