Five experts weigh in on global flight-path maps

An art critic, environmentalist, aviation consultant, data visualization expert, and philosopher offer some interpretations of global flight-path maps.

From the art critic:

It’s almost like contemporary fractalisation – based on fractals, those beautiful divisions of science and nature. A number of artists have exploited them. Max Ernst based a lot of his surreal landscapes on fractalisation.

From the aviation consultant:

Europe looks so bright because it has so many short-haul flights. It’s also one of the busiest global markets and there are several hubs in relatively close proximity in Europe: Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and London…

What we’re going to see in a few years is more connections between Asia and Africa, and South America and Africa, along with more “south-south” trade.

From the expert in data visualization:

You can see the density of the flights, but it doesn’t show you how many people are travelling on them. You could do that by colouring them differently.

From the philosopher:

We are not seeing the life of individual human beings, but the life of the species as a whole, as if the species was one organism, pulsating like a jellyfish. Maybe it represents our collective existence?

Interesting thoughts all around. The quote above from the philosopher is right on in that maps like these allows us to see larger patterns and how we are all connected. It is not just about the flow of passengers or cargo back and forth but also about how these flight paths connect us. The maps could also serve as a proxy for global power and business activity. I remember seeing work from sociologist Zachary Neal along these lines. Take a look at his publications involving cities, networks, and airplanes here.

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