Posted by: Paul | December 15, 2010

A Map For Our Times

Yesterday, Facebook released this, I think, quite strikingly beautiful image. It’s a digital representation of Facebook users’ connections to each other, put together by Facebook intern Paul Butler. The brighter the lines and dots, the more connections there are between the two points on the map, and it reveals some interesting things which hadn’t struck me before. Such as the fact that I didn’t realise Facebook was so popular in India and Southeast Asia, and less popular than you might expect in somewhere like Japan.

With its points of light and myriad connecting lines, this map and what it shows could just as easily be a representation of wealth and democracy. Or capitalism. Or even air travel. But certainly it lays bare the world’s information architecture and population centres, how they are connected together, and the vast gaps that technology both crosses and also leaves behind. Look for instance at the vast dark deserts at the centre of Russia and Australia, almost the entire interior of Africa, and also – for entirely different reasons, perhaps – China.

But the thing I like about this image most of all is the tiny islands in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the way they connect to their surroundings. Look at how bright the Hawaiian islands are, for instance. It makes me feel that even in the blackness of the farthest reaches of the world’s oceans, you can still reach out to someone, whether you’re on Mauritius, the Pitcairns, the Azores or the Faroes, you only have to switch on your computer and you can talk to someone. They’re like tiny stars in the dark, and it makes the world feel that little bit smaller.

Plus, it makes a brilliant desktop wallpaper or screensaver!


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