The Global Diffussion of Google Search Terms

Chris Bail, Taylor Brown, Andreas Wimmer

How do cultural tastes, consumption preferences, and other individual interests spread across the globe? The study of such "cultural globalization" has proven difficult for many years because of the sheer scale of cross-national diffussion and the lack of appropriate data to study it. Yet internet search data provide new occasion to study this important process. We collected the top 10 Google searches each month between 2004 and 2014 in 199 countries from Google Trends, hired a team of multi-lingual coders to translate them across more than 72 different languages, and produced a dataset that describes terms the first appear in the Google searches of one country and later appear in another.

Contrary to popular accounts, our forthcoming study shows that cross-national diffusion is surprisingly rare, and that it is seldom U.S. led. Instead, diffusion occurs through a multichannel network with many different centers.The interactive visualization below describes the flow of cultural tastes, consumer preferences, and other individual interests between countries. The gray arcs between countries describe one country influencing another. The size of the arcs describes the frequency of influence between any two countries. Countries are ordered from left to right in terms of their tendency to lead other countries in searching for a term. The size of each bar describing a country describes its overall influence upon other countries.

Interactive Visualization of Cultural Globalization