Marshall McLuhan on Pantheon, an Internet Mapping of Historical & Current Cultural Influence


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MIT has launched an interesting Internet application that measures and ranks world cultural influencers by country and occupation. The New York Times explains it thus:

There are many varieties of fame. Jesus Christ was the first person to achieve it globally, Clive James wrote, “without conquering the world by violence.” The best kind for a poet to earn, W. H. Auden said, is like some valley cheese — “local, but prized elsewhere.” Yet if all fame, like all politics, is to some degree local, how thoroughly it has been transmitted across the planet and through the centuries has been difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.

Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group in M.I.T.’s Media Lab, is giving that a stab. It has collected and analyzed data on cultural production from 4,000 B.C. to 2010. With a few clicks on its website, which just went live, you can swing through time and geography, making plain the output of, say, Brazil (largely soccer players) or Belarus (politicians). It also ranks professions from chemists to jurists to porn stars (No. 1 is Jenna Jameson; No. 2 is the Czech Republic’s Silvia Saint).

For now, you are legitimately famous, the M.I.T. team has decided, if a Wikipedia page under your name exists in more than 25 languages. [It is also premised on how many times living and historical personages are looked up on Wikipedia in the various languages.] See .


Here’s where Marshall McLuhan of Canada ranks in MIT’s schema:


Marshall McLuhan (Philosopher) was born in EdmontonCanada in 1911.

He is featured in 37 different language editions of Wikipedia and has received 4,397,402 combined Page views since 2008.

  • L (language editions):   37
  • PV (page views):   4,397,402
  • PVe (english pageviews):   2,131,153
  • PVne (non-english pageviews):   2,266,249
  • CV (coeff. of variation):   0.02703
  • L* (effective L):   6.64
Between Claude Lévi-Strauss at 148 and Emil Cioran at 150
PEOPLE AMONG PEOPLE BORN IN 1911:   8 out of 56
PEOPLE BORN IN CANADA:   5 out of 121
Canada’s dataset is here .
You were not born with the ability to fly, cure disease or communicate at long distances, but you were born in a society that endows you with these capacities. These capacities are the result of information that has been generated by human and that humans have been able to embed in tangible and digital objects.

This information is all around you. It is the way in which the atoms in an airplane

are arranged or the way in which your cell-phone whispers dance instructions to

electromagnetic waves.

Pantheon is a project celebrating the cultural information that endows our

species with these fantastic capacities. To celebrate our global cultural heritage

we are compiling, analyzing and visualizing datasets that can help us understand

the process of global cultural development.

Dive in, visualize, and enjoy. ( )

Methods – Read about how these datasets are arrived at and their biases,

limitations and validation here

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