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The Connected States
July 6, 2011 8:28 AM   Subscribe

The Connected States of America is a supercool interactive map from the MIT Media Lab and IBM that lets you visualize how regions in the US are connected by cell phone calls and SMS messages. Instead of the familiar states, new patterns emerge, with New Jersey and California split in half, and Pittsburgh the new capital of West Virginia, among other changes.
posted by blahblahblah (45 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tried my home county of Coos, NH... "insufficient data". LIVE FREE OR DIE!
posted by nathancaswell at 8:35 AM on July 6, 2011


That second chart on NYTimes link is the most-beautiful-yet-least-informative chart I've ever seen.
posted by birdherder at 8:38 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fascinating. Clicking on any state capital gets lots of connectivity to other state capitals and Washington. I can't figure out what the hot relationship is between most of Louisiana and the San Diego area though.
posted by localroger at 8:39 AM on July 6, 2011


I find it fascinating that you can see how relatively insular rural areas are, when you click on them, and how messy and interconnected the big cities are by comparison.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2011


Also, every county seems to have relatives who retired to Florida.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:43 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not much going on between San Francisco and Nebraska, that's for sure.
posted by jasper411 at 8:46 AM on July 6, 2011


Pittsburgh the new capital of West Virginia, among other changes.

I see the Kingdom of the East won the war again -- but wow, what the hell did West Virginia do?
posted by eriko at 8:46 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyone able to figure out how to link to a county view on that interactive map?
posted by me3dia at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2011


There have been various projects to re-envision state lines over the years. As a resident of the east coast, I can confirm that most of these patterns make obvious sense (also, living in DC makes it particularly easy to cross 2.5 states by accident on the way to buy groceries; the borders here make no sense at all, and set up perverse incentives that make it very difficult to coordinate tax policy or social services on a local level).

It's always been a dirty little secret that New York City is really just the capitol of North Jersey and Long Island, while Philadelphia is the capitol of South Jersey. The two halves of Jersey have virtually nothing in common (although I was a bit surprised to see that some of the NW bits of Jersey didn't bleed over into PA).

The surprising ones to me were the places where state lines were respected almost to a T. Texas, and the surrounding states were particularly shocking. The Texan cluster stuck together even in places where it was geographically improbable for it to do so.

Seeing Michigan as its own thing also seemed a bit odd. I would have expected Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota to be a lot more connected than they are, although I've admittedly spent very little time in that region.

A bit surprising not to see a north/south Florida split. People there are always telling me about how divided their state is.

Also, this is why transportation/transit planning/funding is so impossibly fucked in our country.
posted by schmod at 8:57 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah it's interesting how well these line up with actual state lines, like with mississippi and alabama cut in two
posted by delmoi at 9:06 AM on July 6, 2011


Pittsburgh the new capital of West Virginia, among other changes.

I see the Kingdom of the East won the war again -- but wow, what the hell did West Virginia do?


Except that apparently they don't SMS.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:08 AM on July 6, 2011


"I can't figure out what the hot relationship is between most of Louisiana and the San Diego area though."

I'll venture that it's Mexican-American families and immigrants.
posted by oddman at 9:26 AM on July 6, 2011



Is there some explanation why every county seems to call San Bernadino county a disproportionate amount compared to the rest of the west and southwest?
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:31 AM on July 6, 2011


I clicked several counties in my state and now I have to know -- who's in San Bernardino, California, that half of Alabama seems to be constantly calling? With every click, the pattern shifted, usually around the southeast, but each time there was San Bernardino County glowing red like the eye of Sauron.

Also I observed that in terms of connectivity, Wilcox County, Alabama might as well be in the Arctic Circle.

On preview: I'll venture that it's Mexican-American families and immigrants.

Oh, yeah. Probably so.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:31 AM on July 6, 2011


He Is Only The Imposter: "Is there some explanation why every county seems to call San Bernadino county a disproportionate amount compared to the rest of the west and southwest?"

I think at some point, someone in almost every family decided to move to "LA".
posted by wcfields at 9:34 AM on July 6, 2011


Louisiana and San Diego are connected via the Marine Corps.
posted by wuwei at 9:35 AM on July 6, 2011


localroger: " I can't figure out what the hot relationship is between most of Louisiana and the San Diego area though."

Partly, I think the map doesn't control for population. So the heavy population areas have more chances to be connected to everywhere. Beyond that, I'd say the connections come down to two forms of migrant labor. Mexican immigrants, and military.
posted by pwnguin at 9:36 AM on July 6, 2011


This is very cool, thanks for sharing.

I am wondering if some of the hot spots are being created by long distance call centres. In Canada we have services where you call a 1-800 number or some such, and once you get a second dial tone THEN you dial the number you want to reach.
posted by Vindaloo at 9:36 AM on July 6, 2011


"A bit surprising not to see a north/south Florida split. People there are always telling me about how divided their state is."

There really is a big culture divide between the northern and southern portions. Huge, really. However, there are also a lot of families and friends that end up scattered in various parts of the state for work, education (tons of people from So. Fla head to UF in northern Fl, for example), etc. So, I'm not surprised to see the regions communicating a lot. This map is also probably strongly affected by the fact that the capital is in the panhandle but the main business hubs are in the center, south and north east of the state.

I'm not at all surprised to see that the western panhandle is basically just southern Alabama.
posted by oddman at 9:38 AM on July 6, 2011


Six seats in the United States Senate whose entire states have "insufficient data".
posted by Flunkie at 9:40 AM on July 6, 2011


I can't figure out what the hot relationship is between most of Louisiana and the San Diego area though.

San Diegans love them some broadband Cajun amateur porn.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:47 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Six seats in the United States Senate whose entire states have "insufficient data".

The project analyzed call data from AT&T cellular service. There are vast swaths of the country, in the upper Plains states in particular, where cellular service is practically nil.
posted by me3dia at 9:47 AM on July 6, 2011


Six seats in the United States Senate whose entire states have "insufficient data".
and
There are vast swaths of the country, in the upper Plains states in particular, where cellular service is practically nil.


Yep, North Dakota (or at least this end of it) just got AT&T about a month ago as a result of the Alltel/Verizon merger thing. Coming here with AT&T service in place was hilarious, because the service map of the area used to say 'rural area no service offered' or some such thing. Terrible reception, though I guess no worse than downtown SF on a busy day.
posted by librarylis at 10:16 AM on July 6, 2011


How could anyone have let this go out the door without normalizing for ATT-Wireless-using population, or at least allowing that as an option to view. While it's fairly easy to see from the maps that proximity predicts call/sms volume, I have honestly no clue how to interpret connections to distant locations, especially the big cities that tend to be strongly connected no matter what. Also, either the data is asymetric (i.e. NY calls NJ is different than the reverse) and should be presented as such, or the color scale means different things as you click around (which is what I suspect, and makes it tricky to interpret as well). Lovely data, almost useless presentation. *grumble grumble why do I never get data sets like this grumble*
posted by Schismatic at 10:31 AM on July 6, 2011


The surprising ones to me were the places where state lines were respected almost to a T

I was too, but then I think about all the people and services that are required to be in-state .. utilities, government, doctors, lawyers, and such. This must skew the results, no?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:34 AM on July 6, 2011


Spotty coverage overall in the west and upper midwest, but one thing that might be standing out: connections between "oil patches" in TX/LA, Alaska, and the two or three North Dakota counties that actually light up.
posted by gimonca at 10:38 AM on July 6, 2011


And, yet, if the map is to be believed, Alaskans enjoy phenomenal cellular coverage.
posted by schmod at 11:22 AM on July 6, 2011


Loving, Texas is without cell phones?
posted by klausman at 11:25 AM on July 6, 2011


Loving, Texas is without cell phones?

The 82 people who live there don't make much for statistics.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:28 AM on July 6, 2011


Keep in mind the map is from "anonymous, aggregated AT&T mobile phone data"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:30 AM on July 6, 2011


schmod I don't see the map as indicating that there is phenomenal cell coverage in AK, just that the counties in AK that have cell service are really big.

Re: cell coverage. I live in barely-rural Washtenaw County MI, and have effectively no cell service at my house -- just ask anyone who's called me.
posted by jlkr at 11:34 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neato cognitive geography map. Historians use them too, there are some fascinating ones of Europe pre-history that show zones of culture, based on archaeology evidence. You can see zones in Europe 5000 BC that still exist to this day, a great book on this is Europe Between the Oceans. In fact I bet some of zones in present-day USA mirror some of the zones with pre-historical Indian tribes, along the way geography breaks things up.

Some questions in the NYT map: Why is Indiana an island unto itself and not part of southern Illinois or western Ohio? Or why is Arkansas more associated with Oklahoma than Missouri?
posted by stbalbach at 11:57 AM on July 6, 2011


The map in the first link would be so much more informative if they had an option to normalize by county population. It's not surprising to see that a county with lots of people is receiving lots of calls (e.g. lots of people call New York), but it is interesting to see that a county is receiving many more calls per person than average (e.g. Orange, CA calls Lipscolm, TX way more than Lipscolm's population warrants -- What's up with that?).

Sometimes I wonder if people don't create population-normalized versions of maps because the human perspective is too revealing.
posted by martin10bones at 12:23 PM on July 6, 2011


with ... California split in half

This will come to little surprise to most Californians.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:27 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, can't seem to pull up DC on the map
posted by Tabs at 1:21 PM on July 6, 2011


Interesting how many calls there are between Fairbanks North Star Borough (alaska) and Hawaii compared to other places.
posted by Gymnopedist at 2:00 PM on July 6, 2011


Seeing Michigan as its own thing also seemed a bit odd. I would have expected Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota to be a lot more connected than they are, although I've admittedly spent very little time in that region.

Michigan is mostly surrounded by lakes.
posted by madcaptenor at 2:36 PM on July 6, 2011


Michigan is mostly surrounded by lakes.
Yeah, but we have boats now, and I hear talk of a land bridge connecting us with northern Ohio and Indiana.

I'm actually pretty surprised that so much of the Upper Peninsula seems to actually be part of the rest of the state. I would have assumed that the "Michigan Cheesehead" syndrome affected most of the UP. Also, down here in Mid-Michigan (Tri-Cities), one hardly ever talks to a real, live, yooper. They're almost as rare as real Michigan wolverines (woodland mammals, not college students).
posted by LiteOpera at 4:38 PM on July 6, 2011


Sure, you have boats. But boats are slower than land bridges. So non-UP Michigan is probably less closely affiliates with Wisconsin than it would be if they were the same distance apart but over land.

(Also, for a really stupid moment there I was thinking "cool! they built a bridge across Lake Michigan! when did that happen?")
posted by madcaptenor at 4:52 PM on July 6, 2011


LiteOpera, madcaptenor Yoopers aren't Cheeseheads, though. Real live Yoopers tend to stay north of the bridge, or at least don't draw attention to themselves. Most of the Yoopers I know have family in the Lower Peninsula rather than Wisconsin/Minnesota.
posted by jlkr at 10:22 PM on July 6, 2011


All these subtleties are lost on me as I have never even set foot in any of the states we're talking about. I am just looking at maps and randomly conjecturing.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:32 PM on July 6, 2011


Yooper Cheeseheads are real, though, and this graph seems to support the fact that about half of the UP is more closely connected to Wisconsin. I was just saying that I though this was surprising because, as you said, Yoopers tend to stick to themselves and way the hell away from Saginaw. Therefore, I have hardly ever seen one, and had assumed that, since there had to be people from up there (I know I didn't just hallucinate Jeff Daniels), they were hanging out with their, geographically closer, comrades to the West in Wisconsin.

Plus, I had a dorm roommate from Marquette, and he was a huge Cheesehead, meaning Packers fan, not just a disparaging term for a Wisconsonian. Anecdote = Data!
posted by LiteOpera at 3:15 AM on July 7, 2011


Gymnopedist: "Interesting how many calls there are between Fairbanks North Star Borough (alaska) and Hawaii compared to other places."

I can anecdotally confirm this. There's a pretty big Hawaii/Alaska connection that I noticed when I was living in Fairbanks.

Part of this has to do with military deployments (people in the military move around, a few university/science (and USGS) connections, and people who absolutely hate hot/cold weather, and leave their home to go to the other extreme.
posted by schmod at 11:21 AM on July 7, 2011


and people who absolutely hate hot/cold weather, and leave their home to go to the other extreme.

wouldn't the opposite of Alaska weather be, say, southern Arizona? Hawaii isn't that hot.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:18 PM on July 7, 2011


I didn't mean to imply that Yooper Cheeseheads didn't exist, but rather to point out that not all Yoopers are Cheeseheads.... Jeff Daniels isn't a Yooper, btw. He's a troll (in the Yooper sense -- born under the bridge).

I spent most of my time in daYoop up in the northern reaches. When the copper mines closed in the 1960s, people moved south to work on the auto lines, and moved back to daYoop when they retired. The iron and timber producing regions of daYoop are more closely tied to Wisconsin/Minnesota than they are to the Copper Country. (Also, the three major colleges in daYoop (all of which are along the the Superior shore) pull a lot of students from the southern half of the lower peninsula, largely because that's where most Michiganders live.)
posted by jlkr at 3:22 PM on July 7, 2011


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