The Mesh of Civilizations and International Email Flows
In The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington argued that the primary axis of global conflict was no longer ideological or economic but cultural and religious, and that this division would characterize the "battle lines of the future." In contrast to the "top down" approach in previous research focused on the relations among nation states, we focused on the flows of interpersonal communication as a bottom-up view of international alignments. To that end, we mapped the locations of the world's countries in global email networks to see if we could detect cultural fault lines. Using IP-geolocation on a worldwide anonymized dataset obtained from a large Internet company, we constructed a global email network. In computing email flows we employ a novel rescaling procedure to account for differences due to uneven adoption of a particular Internet service across the world. Our analysis shows that email flows are consistent with Huntington's thesis. In addition to location in Huntington's "civilizations," our results also attest to the importance of both cultural and economic factors in the patterning of inter-country communication ties.