Walt Disney, Jimi Hendrix, America, Popular Culture and the World


Whether you produce movies; publish books or comic books; develop digital games or make toys; you play a role in creating our global culture.  This is not just important from a creative or ethical standpoint but from an economic one as well.  After all, when Walt Disney started making cartoons, he not only made entertainment but had an enormous impact on how we define the world in which we live.  In doing so created a powerful economic engine that creates jobs, wealth and influence.

DisneySo, just how important are people like Walt Disney and nations like the U.S. in how they shape world culture? Those were thoughts that went through my mind as I came across a fascinating website called Pantheon.   A production of the MIT Media Lab, Pantheon maps global culture and the impact that individuals and countries have in shaping it.

Pantheon measures the impact that individuals and nations have on shaping culture through a number of measures.  One dominating gauge is the number of times an individual shows up in differing Wikipedia languages; another is the number of biographies in different languages.  If you want to know more about their methodology, visit the methods page

I am going to break this up into two postings as I, and I hope you, find it fascinating.  So, for starters let’s see the rankings of the top 10 national influencers from the dates 1900 BC through 2010:

            Country    Number of People Listed as Cultural Influencers

  1. United States               1894
  2. United Kingdom            695
  3. Germany                      304
  4. France                         297
  5. Italy                             240
  6. Russia                         177
  7. Spain                           167
  8. Brazil                           124
  9. Canada                        110
  10. The Netherlands            109

Here are the top 10 human influencers from 1900 to the present:

        Influencer                                Country of Birth

  1. Che Guevara                          Argentina
  2. Martin Luther King Jr.              United States
  3. Elvis Presley                           United States
  4. Salvador Dali                           Spain
  5. Walt Disney                            United States
  6. Jean-Paul Sartre                      France
  7. Jimi Hendrix                            United States
  8. Andy Warhol                           United States
  9. Mother Teresa                         Macedonia
  10. Bob Marley                             Jamaica

Of this group, half are popular culture influencers (Elvis Presley, Walt Disney, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol and Bob Marley).  Two, Salvador Dali and Jean-Paul Sartre would be considered part of high culture.

What do we make of this; that in my next posting?

Leave a Reply