Google Insights reveals some interesting comparative data on the popularity trends of various terms and authors in anthropology. I have only scratched the surface, not having conducted very refined comparisons of specific anthropological concepts, theories, schools, etc., although presumably all of these statistical comparisons can now be done. The statistics generated by Google Insights simply tell us about particular Internet search terms, and “the likelihood of users in a particular area to search for a term on Google on a relative basis” (data normalization).
The results of my research surprised me, and in some instances I am not sure how to interpret these results. In the case of the first chart below, we see that the relative popularity of “anthropology” as a search term, across all categories of information searched worldwide, has declined by almost 50% in the last five years.
More surprising, given the next map, is that in terms of relative popularity, more Ethiopian web users are likely to search for “anthropology” online than any other nation on earth, and followed very closely by Nepal. Will this send our recruiters into a tizzy as they quickly rush glossy brochures to prospective students in those countries?
I was also interested in seeing the comparative popularity online in terms of anthropologists who are both major figures in the discipline, and yet whose names are very distinctive (fewer people are likely to be called Marshall Sahlins, than Greg Smith). The figures I chose were Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, Arjun Appadurai, and Marshall Sahlins — however, given the preponderance of unusual names in our discipline, many other choices could have worked (Powdermaker, Evans-Pritchard, etc.). Not surprisingly, Franz Boas is still a world leader:
More suprisingly perhaps is that Franz Boas is likely to be searched more often online in Brazil than in any other country:
In the meantime, Mexicans and Canadians seem to have a greater interest in Bronislaw Malinowski than most other web users:
Arjun Appadurai, oddly enough is not very popular in India, but extremely popular in the United States:
Brazilians and then Americans are much more likely to search for Marshall Sahlins online than most other web surfers:
Archaeology and linguistics, as search terms, are vastly more popular worldwide than cultural anthropology or physical anthropology:
Cultural anthropology is more popular as a search term in the Philippines and the U.S.:
Archaeology seems to lead in popularity especially in Ireland, followed by the U.K.:
Interest in linguistics is greatest in Kenya and Pakistan:
While physical anthropology appears to be of especial interest to Americans and Canadians:
What does it mean? That’s the problem: I am not sure. I am more excited about the potential to finally do some enhanced cross-cultural and global comparisons about the perceptions and interests in anthropology, than I am about my ability to comprehend the statistics or to perform effective searches.