The Global Village


When Marshall McLuhan popularised the concept of the Global Village, I wonder if he saw this day coming.

The Global Village

Paul Butler, an intern in Facebook’s data infrastructure engineering team, produced this amazing data visualisation, by taking a sample of about ten million pairs of friends on Facebook, combined with each user’s city:

Not only were continents visible, certain international borders were apparent as well. What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn’t represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life.

The image above, doesn’t do the visualisation justice – it’s well worth exploring the full size version.

It’s fascinating to how Europe looks up close – the combination of friendship ties and levels of Facebook usage almost perfectly drawing the borders of the European Economic Area and the accession states:


Or to see the fascinating patterns of Latin America, the lines less dense not through lack of population or friendships, but through lack of internet access, with the friendships of rich Facebook users writ large across two continents:

Latin America

As Marshall would have said, the medium is indeed the message.