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Campaign for World Domination: Progress Report

May 29, 2013

Some time in the early hours of this morning, the “page views” counter of my Wittgenstein blog clicked over into five figures.

PI views total

Small beer compared to many, I know, but I’m still surprised and pleased that an amateur blog on such an esoteric subject could attract a steady stream of hits from all over the world. And of course like anyone who runs a blog for more than two days I’m completely obsessed by my stats page and what it might or might not show me. Here, for example is the info on where my readers come from:

PI views per country

Ah, I love that map! It turns blog writing into a sort of game of intellectual Risk: once I’ve turned the entire atlas dark green then the whole world will be mine! MINE! (Except that I can’t, of course; Blogspot stats only show you the top ten entries, so my small but hugely satisfying hits from China, Pakistan and Kenya are hidden from view.) But ego-massaging aside, what does the map say about the global state of interest in Wittgenstein and philosophy more generally?

Well, the most obviously striking feature is the thumping dominance of the United States. I mean, you might expect them to be top given that a) my blog is written in English and b) US  philosophy seems to have a strong emphasis on what’s known as “analytic philosophy” (the area in which Wittgenstein worked). But 41%! That’s huge!

The next two on the list are no great surprise, either. Wittgenstein spent most of his professional life teaching at Cambridge and his work still features strongly in UK philosophy courses. On the other hand, he was from Austria and wrote in German, which I assume would help boost his popularity in German-speaking countries – and Germany was a German-speaking country last time I checked.

I must admit, however, that it intrigues me to see Russia in fourth spot. I have no idea what the philosophical climate is like there – has it changed since the break up of the Soviet Union? Is philosophy a thriving discipline, and if so what sort of philosophy is considered “hot” at the moment? Whatever the answers, there certainly seems to be a significant (I’d say “surprising”) level of interest in Wittgenstein. In fact, things are made even more intriguing when you realise that it was only after a year of so of writing the blog that Russia started to show up at all. Before that: zip. So they’re reached fourth spot despite giving the western world a twelve-month head-start. Does that say something about growing internet penetration in the country? Or an increase in the level of Russians who speak English? Or are those five hundred-odd hits all accounted for by a few obsessives who return to the site more often than is healthy? It’s perhaps worth noting in this context that India is another nation that’s made the top ten despite being completely absent for the first year of the site’s existence. They, like Russia, are a growing economic power in the world. Is that a coincidence?

The other surprising feature is the poor showing by France. Like Germany and the UK (and unlike, say, Spain or Italy) France has a long and venerable tradition of philosophical inquiry. And yet they languish in sixth spot and are only ahead of Latvia (Latvia!) on alphabetical order. If I had to guess I’d suggest this reflects the so-called “continental/analytic” divide – basically, two different approaches to philosophy which started to go their own way in the 19th century, with France most strongly representing the continental approach and Britain and the US championing the analytic side of things. To give an indication of how deep the divide was, I graduated in 1988 and my philosophy degree contained not a single lecture on Hegel, Nietzsche, Satre or Derrida. Not one. Since then things have supposedly improved, and many philosophers make bold claims about how the whole issue has been consigned to history. Certainly, when I was Warwick Uni in 2003 they paid much more attention to continental philosophy. All the same, my blog stats suggest the divide has not entirely disappeared.

Finally, for the tekkies out there, here are my browser stats.

PI views per browser

Is Firefox catching up with IE, or is it just that philosophers prefer it? I wouldn’t know – I’m a Chrome man myself.

Oh, btw, you can read the Wittgenstein blog at http://www.lwpi.blogspot.com.

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2 Comments
  1. Maybe I am getting old and cynical, but could some of the Russian visitors be spammers? Anyway, what matters is quality rather than quantity 🙂

  2. D’oh! I never thought about spammers. But don’t France have any? Ou est le spam Francais?

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