Technology redefines how we think of community. In the past geographic regions determined community based on accessibility. However with planes, trains and automobiles families have dispersed from where they grew up. College, jobs and/or dreams cause one to wonder from their roots. With The Connected States of America project, we now can see how far our connected roots have spread based on the social interactions through the use of anonymized mobile phone data.
If we were to redraw the state lines of American by our communication patterns you may get something like the map above. The MIT Senseable City Lab's Connected States of America mapping project plots out which citizens stay connected with whom by looking at cellular data (SMS and phone calls) . By the looks of the map most South Carolinians stay directly connected with our brethren just above our state line. The MIT Senseable City Lab also helps visualize why particular areas and communities spring to life.
Investigating the interaction network of people reveals interesting facets on how people utilize space. Cities attract their citizens from all walks of life, from nearby and from distant areas across the country. This constant flux of people commuting, migrating, and travelling across the country establishes connections which are dominated by large cities. The social connections woven across the United States can be used to define communities, where the glue that holds a community together is a stronger relationship with other members of the same community compared to members of other communities. Naturally, one can ask whether the communities defined purely by social interactions coincide with the administrative boundaries, for example state boundaries? Remarkably, this is not always the case!
- Play around with the maps at MIT's site to get a true feel for how we stay connected. Hint: You can look based on connections with a given county. Pretty cool.
- For a little inspiration, watch this short video.