One of the things that I think we face in era of big data and especially in the moment when data visualizations/projections are so popular is that the data you start with is not objective. Case in point is the Smithsonian.com animation that asks us to [“Watch How the Cultural Hubs of Civilization Have Shifted Over Centuries”][s]. Go ahead and click on the link and watch the visualization. It’s quite compelling.
Did you notice how densely populated Europe and North America are? How sparsely populated China is? Let along Africa and South America? We’re talking civilizations here. The great kingdoms of China. The empires of the Incas and the Aztecs must cutely be counted among the civilizations of our planet worth noting? Well, not quite:
> By tracking where 120,000 notable historical figures were born and died, researchers have charted the ever-shifting appeal of the next up-and-coming Big City. The video above shows the migration of notable figures—artists, explorers, philosophers, missionaries and others—from 600 B.C. to 2012 A.D., says _Nature_.
>> The animation reflects some of what was known already. Rome gave way to Paris as a cultural centre, which was eventually overtaken by Los Angeles and New York. But it also puts figures and dates on these shifts — and allows for precise comparisons. For example, the data suggest that Paris overtook Rome as a cultural hub in 1789.
Ah. It’s those 120,000 notable figures upon which the graph is based that is the problem: it’s not very inclusive, is it?