MIT Media Lab’s Pantheon project visualizes who different cultures consider to be the most important.
Pantheon is MIT Media Lab’s version of a popularity contest – except across all recorded history. The project analyzes data to create visualizations and rankings of the most globally important people throughout history.
What we call celebrities, MIT Media Lab calls ‘globally known people’, and through treemaps, matrices and scatterplots, the team has created a comprehensive means of understanding when different areas of the world were producing culturally important people.
Led by César Hidalgo, Pantheon identified who were history’s most important people by determining the number of times they had been searched in Wikipedia in more than 25 languages. Hidalgo tells Fast Co.Design that from there, the list was ‘cleaned’, sorting through name, gender, nationality and taking out any ‘flavor of the month’ blips of 15 minute celebrity, like Psy. The famous people are then ranked, based on their lasting global impact. In the US, Martin Luther King Jr is the number one historical figure of all time, in Italy it is Leonardo Da Vinci and Brazil it is Pelé.
It is interesting to explore Pantheon to compare different periods of time and see what kind of cultural figure was considered important. As Hidalgo explains to Fast Company:
Science emerges after the printing press. Famous soccer players, after televisions. And certain musicians come after the development of the radio…The development of the data visualization engines allows people to access information in a lot of ways.
Source/Images: Fast Co.Design