Graphing the Influence of Thinkers and Ideas Throughout History
Brendan Griffen has graphed a network of all people on Wikipedia with who they’ve influenced and who they’re influenced by.
Via Griff’s Graphs:
For those new to this type of thing: the node size represents the number of connections. In short, I used a database version of Wikipedia to extract all people with known influences and made this map. The bigger the node, the bigger influence that person had on the rest of the network. Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Kafka, and Lovecraft all, as one would expect, appear as the largest nodes. Around these nodes, cluster other personalities who are affiliated (depends on distance). Highlighting communities by colour reveals sub-networks within the total structure. You’ll notice common themes amongst similarly coloured authors.
Griffen’s influence is Simon Raper who recently graphed the history of philosophy.
The tools used are similar too:
First I queried Snorql and retrieved every person who had a registered ‘influence’ or registered ‘influenced by’ value (restricted to people only so if they were influenced by ‘anime’, they were excluded).
I then decoded these using a neat little URL decoder and imported them into Microsoft Excel for further processing (removing things like ‘(Musician)’ and other annoying syntax).
I then exported these as a csv and imported into Gephi and proceeded as usual. Fruchterman-Reingold algorithm followed by Force Atlas 2. I then identified communities using ‘Modularity’ and edited the rest in Preview. Due to the size, I’ve had to zoom up and take snapshots on regions of interest.
The csv file containing all of the data can be obtained here so you can make your own maps.
And yes, as Griffen notes, the information and visualization is biased towards Western ideas and cultures since Wikipedia skews heavily toward English speakers.
Meantime, we’re absolutely gobsmacked.
Images: Partial screenshots of Graphing Every* Idea in History, by Brendan Griffen. Select to embiggen.
H/T: Flowing Data.
I’m the kind of person, I have three immediate reactions to the largest image shown above. Simultaneously, I think ‘it’s interesting someone could map that programmatically’, and ‘that is a lot of white, male writers’, and then, probably most loudly, i think, ‘wait, where is william gaddis? how can he not be on that map, larger than burroughs or (really?) michael chabon? that’s crazy!’ I should just never even look at a list like this.