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Cyber-cultural Similarity from Google Search

The aim of this project is to develop methods to provide international socio-cultural similarilty measures, at scale, from revealed human preferences. For decades the World Values Survey (WVS) has been the gold-standard of international cultural similarity and comparison, however, the WVS's strength is also its weakness: by conducting face-to-face values surveys with carefully constructed representative sample sub-populations, the WVS delivers data-source control up-scaling potential. However, face-to-face surveys are known to be highly problematic in eliciting personal values information, especially in repressive or semi-autocratic political contexts. Furthermore, the WVS machinery is highly costly to implement, with survey waves necessarily separated by five year periods. With more than 50% of humanity now online, alternative data sources, like Google search queries, provide promising opportunities in this space: queries are self-revealed and often highly intimate, queries can be geo-located and analysed in near real-time, and in almost all countries queries to Google cover increasingly large fractions of the population.