Internet Map - This project by Chris Harrison displays the relative densities of Internet connectivity across the globe. It maps how cities across the globe are interconnected (by router configuration), in a total of 89,344 connections. As the author points out “it’s important to note that this only reflects density of connections, and not usage - hundreds of people may utilize a single connection in an internet cafe, often the only form of connectivity people have access to in developing nations”.
Air Lines - This project aims at mapping worldwide airline routes. Every single scheduled flight on any given day is represented by a fine line from its point of origin to the airport of destination, therefore forming a net of thousands of lines. Hubs like JFK, FRA or DXB turn into heavy condensed nodes where lines meet, while local routes are only slightly discernible. Every scheduled airline route has been extracted from booking and airline systems.
Detailed view of European connectivity: Internet Map (left) and Air Lines (right). Although the view on the right seems substantially more intricate, it’s quite misleading since it also includes airline routes to/from destinations outside Europe, while the view on the left comprises solely connections within that region.
The first pattern that emerges from the two projects is that even though no country borders or geographic features are displayed (only data is plotted) it’s still fairly easy to perceive the shape of most continents and regions of the globe, particularly in the map of airline routes.
Another extrapolation between both projects relates to connectivity distribution. Airline routes are apparently more democratic and globally widespread. We can notice how some regions, such as Africa, Asia and South America become much more connected to the rest of the world, providing a better match with population density in these areas. However, this apparent democratization of the globe can be deceiving, since many of the routes to those predominantly dark regions are representative of tourism traffic. You can easily see how small islands lost in the darkness of the Internet Map become bright interconnected hubs in the Air Lines map, indicating what in many cases is a popular tourist destination. But even though air routes depict a more distributed portrait of the globe, the common unbalanced view of Europe and the US, as the two largest central hubs, is still immediately perceived.