Geography Compass

Facebook connections

By Kelly Wakefield

With the film ‘Social Network’ being nominated for six Golden Globes in 2011, Facebook is rarely out of the media or off our screens.  The image above, taken from a BBC article visualises our Facebook connections.  The map is the work of Paul Butler, a Facebook intern who has attempted to show where 500 million people live in relation to their Facebook friends.  Each line connects cities with pairs of friends, the brighter the line, the more friends there are.  On Butler’s blog he writes that “not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well”. 

This map, although showing physical features of the world, highlights the human relationship, not the political or environmental.  Lai (2009) suggests that ‘research agendas have shifted away from the taxonomic description and constructing hierarchies to examinations of networks and flows…reflecting a methodological shift from quantitative methods to more qualitative approaches of interviews, cultural analysis and ethnography’.  Lai goes on to say that this recognition leads to better appreciation of the specific historical circumstances and contexts that contribute to the contemporary development of global(ising)cities and influence their integration into the global city network, as highlighted by research into post-colonial, post-socialist and other ‘alternative’ cities.

This is an important point within the context of this article as one can see from the map that large areas of the world are missing from the Facebook network, in particular China and central Africa, where Facebook (and I would argue, the Internet) has little presence.  These areas are missing due to many factors, including political and economic, but historical and development factors cannot be ignored more contemporarily.

BBC, 14 December 2010, “Facebook connections map the world“.

Lai, K (2009) ” New Spatial Logics in Global Cities Research: Network, Flows and New Ploitical Spaces“, Geography Compass, Volume 3, Issue 3, Pages 997-1012.

Paul Butler, Facebook, 14 December 2010, “Visualising friendships“.

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