March 6, 2021

Research Tools: Massive Open Access Database on Human Cultures Launches Online

From the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History:

2016-07-09_13-29-33D-PLACE – the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment – is an expandable, open access database that brings together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies. It comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20thcenturies.

The team’s paper on D-PLACE is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

The study’s lead author, Dr Kathryn Kirby, from the University of Toronto, said: “Human cultural diversity is expressed in numerous ways: from the foods we eat and the houses we build, to our religious practices and political organisation, to who we marry and the types of games we teach our children. Cultural practices vary across space and time, but the factors and processes that drive cultural change and shape patterns of diversity remain largely unknown. D-PLACE will enable a whole new generation of scholars to answer these long-standing questions about the forces that have shaped human cultural diversity.”

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D-PLACE allows users to search by cultural practice (e.g., monogamy vs. polygamy), environmental variable (e.g. elevation, mean annual temperature), language family (e.g. Indo-European, Austronesian), or region (e.g. Siberia). The search results can be displayed on a map, language tree, or in a table, and can also be downloaded for further analysis. The D-PLACE database comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
It aims to enable researchers to investigate the extent to which patterns in cultural diversity are shaped by different forces, including shared history, demographics, migration/diffusion, cultural innovations, and environmental and ecological conditions.

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D-PLACE was developed by an international team of scientists interested in cross-cultural research. It includes researchers from Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human history in Jena Germany, University of Auckland, Colorado State University, University of Toronto, University of Bristol, Yale, Human Relations Area Files, Washington University in Saint Louis, and the University of Michigan.

Direct to D-PLACE 

Read the Complete Launch Announcement

Direct to Research Article:  D-PLACE: A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity (via PLOS One)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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