Humanity’s cultural history captured in 5-minute video map

Browsing through the web I found a really interesting project created by Maximilian Schich and his colleagues from art history department at the University of Texas at Dallas. They used the Google-owned knowledge base called Freebase to find 120,000 individuals who were notable enough in their life-times that the dates and locations of their births and deaths were recorded.

The list includes people ranging from Solon, the Greek lawmaker and poet, who was born in 637 BC in Athens, and died in 557 BC in Cyprus, to Jett Travolta — son of the actor John Travolta — who was born in 1992 in Los Angeles, California, and died in 2009 in the Bahamas.

The team used this data to create a unique map-based video with visualizes the cultural history from 600BC to 2012.  Each person’s birth place appears on a map of the world as a blue dot and their death as a red dot.

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.

Schich’s team also viewed their data in the context of data from the Google Ngram Viewer, which shows how often certain phrases or words were used in the general literature at a given time, an indication of the topics that might have been on people’s minds. The researchers used the Ngram data to identify events that might suggest the waxing or waning in importance of a hub.

source: Schich, M. et alScience 345558562 (2014).

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Google brings local ads from mobile to desktop


Over the last few years mobile ads has became one of the most important piece of the advertising maze. And there is a very good reason for it – smartphone is most personal device you’ve ever had.  It’s always online, it’s always with you, it knows where you are… From advertisers perspective you cannot dream about anything more. While online “desktop” ads are typically selling virtual services or bringing traffic to online stores, mobile ads have a potential to actually drive foot traffic to local merchants.

Google is unquestionable leader in that area who earns over $50 bln a year on online advertising. Now Mountain View giant is planning to utilize the knowledge it has about you. If you own a smartphone, you’re most likely connected to Google services. If in addition you use Chrome on you computer Google can actually track your “desktop location” based on your smartphone (in addition to tracking a WiFi you’re connected to). This allows Google to show you local ads also on you computer.

Bloomberg reports that Google is planning to launch such a service as a part of Google Shopping service in US, UK, France, Germany, Japan and Australia. Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of ads and commerce commented:

The ads show what products are available nearby when users search for items, combining the key digital trends of local, mobile and commerce.

I believe that the way that Google uses its services for advertising is genius and scary at the same time. And there is a very thin line between these two.

source: Bloomberg

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