This Is the Connected States of America

If we drew state lines based on cell phone connections, this is what our country would look like.

This is what our state lines might look like if we drew them based on who actually talks with each other, at least according to cell phone data gathered by MIT. These are the geographic clusters of who texts with whom within an area, from the MIT Senseable City Lab's Connected States of America mapping project.

If volume of communication determined state lines, New York City would break ranks with the state that shares its name and join up with oft-maligned New Jersey. Mississippi and Alabama would merge, so would most of New England. Wisconsin would split in two to join Illinois and Minnesota.

But one can also look at how a given regions talk with other regions, and how close those ties are, distance factored in. The map below is of Los Angeles' connections to the rest of the country. Red areas are those with the most connections to L.A. according to cell phone conversations.

The Connected States of America project's interactive maps and visualizations show us how different parts of the country interact, and raise the question, what is a community? There was a simple answer 60 years ago when geography determined who you talked with, bonded with, and spent your life with. Now that families are scattered across the country for college, jobs, or wanderlust, and companies set up bi-coastal offices without a second thought, that's no longer true. Should we care that the people we're most connected with aren't necessarily nearby?

Play around with the maps at MIT's site. For a little inspiration, watch this short video.