How information moves between cultures | Larry Hardesty | MIT News
By analyzing data on multilingual Twitter users and Wikipedia editors and on 30 years’ worth of book translations in 150 countries, researchers at MIT, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Aix Marseille University have developed network maps that they say represent the strength of the cultural connections between speakers of different languages.
This week, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they show that a language’s centrality in their network — as defined by both the number and the strength of its connections — better predicts the global fame of its speakers than either the population or the wealth of the countries in which it is spoken.
“The network of languages that are being translated is an aggregation of the social network of the planet,” says Cesar Hidalgo, the Asahi Broadcasting Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and senior author on the paper. “Not everybody shares a language with everyone else, and therefore the global social network is structured through these circuitous paths in which people in some language groups are by definition way more central than others. That gives them a disproportionate power and responsibility. On the one hand, they have a much easier time disseminating the content that they produce. On the other hand, as information flows through people, it gets colored by the ideas and the biases that those people have.”
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