Expanding the Measurement of Culture with a Sample of Two Billion Humans. A new GLO Discussion Paper by GLO Fellow Ömer Özak and colleagues.

A new GLO Discussion Paper uses Facebook data to expand the measurement of culture to establish new and rich insights.

Ömer Özak

GLO Discussion Paper No. 1070, 2022

Expanding the Measurement of Culture with a Sample of Two Billion Humans Download PDF
by Obradovich, Nick & Özak, Ömer & Martín, Ignacio & Ortuño-Ortín, Ignacio & Awad, Edmond & Cebrián, Manuel & Cuevas, Rubén & Desmet, Klaus & Rahwan, Iyad & Cuevas, Ángel

GLO Fellow Ömer Özak

Author Abstract: Culture has played a pivotal role in human evolution. Yet, the ability of social scientists to study culture is limited by the currently available measurement instruments. Scholars of culture must regularly choose between scalable but sparse survey-based methods or restricted but rich ethnographic methods. Here, we demonstrate that massive online social networks can advance the study of human culture by providing quantitative, scalable, and high-resolution measurement of behaviorally revealed cultural values and preferences. We employ publicly available data across nearly 60,000 topic dimensions drawn from two billion Facebook users across 225 countries and territories. We first validate that cultural distances calculated from this measurement instrument correspond to traditional survey-based and objective measures of cross-national cultural differences. We then demonstrate that this expanded measure enables rich insight into the cultural landscape globally at previously impossible resolution. We analyze the importance of national borders in shaping culture and compare subnational divisiveness to gender divisiveness across countries. The global collection of massive data on human behavior provides a high-dimensional complement to traditional cultural metrics. Further, the granularity of the measure presents enormous promise to advance scholars’ understanding of additional fundamental questions in the social sciences. The measure enables detailed investigation into the geopolitical stability of countries, social cleavages within both small and large-scale human groups, the integration of migrant populations, and the disaffection of certain population groups from the political process, among myriad other potential future applications.

GLO Discussion Papers are research and policy papers of the GLO Network which are widely circulated to encourage discussion. Provided in cooperation with EconStor, a service of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, GLO Discussion Papers are among others listed in RePEc (see IDEAS,  EconPapers)Complete list of all GLO DPs – downloadable for free.

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