March 05, 2010

Cybergeographies of Peace and War

Which parts of the world are defined by peacefulness? And, maybe more importantly, which parts of the world are blanketed by references to war? To answer these questions we decided to do global-level keyword searches for the terms "war" and "peace."

The map below shows that these terms have very complicated yet compelling geographies. On the global scale there seems to be two stark war/peace divides. The first one appears to run roughly along the Prime Meridian, with most places in Europe to the east of the line having more references to war, and places to the west of it with more placemarks contain the word peace. In North America, we see a clear difference between Canada and its larger neighbour to the south. Very few parts of Canada are represented by more references to war than peace. The United States in contrast has a far more complicated geography of peace and war.

It is difficult to discern any coherent spatial patterns in the zoomed-in, North American map of war and peace. We do, however, see that Colorado and eastern Massachusetts are pretty peaceful places. (I'm sure we're going to get lots of comments on that one). Also, despite the abundance of references to war, almost everyone on the continent can escape close to somewhere else dominated by virtual references to peace.

We see quite different geographies of these terms in other parts of the world. Much of Asia is not characterised by references to either term. But, there are a few clear patterns. The Bangkok metropolitan region is covered by a cluster of references to war. The reasons are unclear as to why, but perhaps link back to our Thai findings in the analysis we conducted on the geographies of virtual references to zombies. OK, we're grasping at straws on this one.

Japan and Korea in contrast are defined by far more references to peace. However, note the line of war references along the South-North Korea border.

The European war/peace map is perhaps the most interesting in the set. The starkest difference is between mainland Europe (far more references to war) and Switzerland the British Isles (far more references to peace). This is something you would expect in Switzerland given its long history of neutrality, but why the British Isles home to Manchester City fans and other assorted football holligans?.

One explanation is that on much of the continent a lot of the references to war can probably be traced to frequent use of German in placemarks (the word "war" in German means "was" in English so is probably used quite often). For example, "Ich war ruhig, bis das Zombie nach Hause gekommen war und versuchte, mein Gehirn zu essen." or I was peaceful until the death-challenge individual came to my house for a snack.

Yet this fact only strengthen's Switzerland's highly peaceful cyberspaces. Despite the fact that German is a widely-used language in the country, there are still more virtual references to peace in most parts of Switzerland.

There are also some intriguing similiarities between more references to peace and the battlefields of WWI and II. Especially the differences between Northern France and Southern France.

In peace...


  1. Very Interesting finding. Wow...Peace

  2. Peace,
    Nice map.

    Is it possible to do a map concerning sexual orientation or similar, as i believe the world is becoming more socialy accepting to same sex relationships and i would just like to see some kind of proof of that. I myself have a homosexual family member and fully support same sex marriage and relationships.

    I have always been interested in how the world has adapted to the idea.


  3. Agreed, very interesting. I wonder how much of the war keywords in the US deal with the Civil War. The CW is big business so certainly gets a lot of search traffic. However, it fits very much into the idea of these graphics. The CW wasn't that long ago and absolutely played (and plays) a role in defining who we are.

  4. Jordan, We just started some searches on social movement terms like queer, gay, bisexual, etc. Should be posted in a few months as we work towards it.

  5. can you go into the process a little? are these looking at existing published search queries by people in these locations (using google?), or is your team doing the queries then mapping the results? (based on location of the resulting web pages? - if so, what criteria is being used for the location?) or are you searching through some other data sources (you mention placemarks).

    curious to know more what the map is actually plotting.

  6. I don't get what the maps are trying to show, or how "war" and/or "peace" are defined. For example, is war referring to something employed by a "nation-state," or does it refer to the so-called "new wars" where untraditional actors (such as "non-state actors") are engaging in violence? Or do the maps just show where the word(s) are used in the internet, and would that not elide many other monikers for war (i.e., "bombing," "counterinsurgency," "militancy," etc. etc.)? Confusion abounds...

  7. The map shows the occurrence of the words "war" and "peace" in user-generated Google Maps placemarks from September 2009. Red dots mean that the number of mentions of the word "war" exceeds the number of mentions of the word "peace" at that point, and vice versa with respect to the green dots.

    What does this mean? Lots of things, potentially. It is plausible that mentions of the word "war" could refer to either an anti-war protest or the site of a particular event in the course of a particular war, or any number of other things.

  8. That's absolutely amazing--what an interesting study! It would be worthwhile to do something like this on particular intervals, like every five years, to see the changes.

  9. nice blog nice Lady ;))


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