Alan Mislove

It's a pretty impressive snapshot of the transportation networks of large stretches of the globe.

You may have seen earlier this summer a series of maps released by Twitter showing the geography of different cities as revealed by millions of tweets. Such maps of digital information are compelling for the way they also illustrate concrete infrastructure: the road networks around cities, the public parks inside of them, the clusters of commercial office buildings.

If you missed your own city in that series, Northeastern University assistant professor of computer science Alan Mislove has created a global, navigable map using much of the same data.

Maps of geo-tagged tweets always represent a biased sample of a biased sample. Tons of people aren't on Twitter. And of those who are, the vast majority never opt in to sharing their geographic location. The 275 million tweets shown in Mislove's map, collected between 2011 and April of the year, reflect just the 1.5 percent of messages that are readily geo-tagged. Still, these people appear to give a pretty impressive snapshot of the transportation networks of large stretches of the globe.

"The fact that you can see roads for example," Mislove says, "took me completely by surprise." Here, for example, are interstates 20, 85 and 75 converging on Atlanta:

We've embedded Mislove's full map below. But here are some of our favorite less obvious pieces of transportation infrastructure that clearly emerge from millions of tweets. On this map of the English Channel, you can see ferry boats crossing between Dover and Calais, on the French side:

A similar stretch of ferries run between Holyhead in the U.K. and Dublin:

And here ferries fan out from Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara:

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, San Mateo Bridge and Dumbarton Bridge are all apparent:

If you find your own examples here – people waiting at airports? riding Amtrak? – please share them in the comments section.

All images courtesy of Alan Mislove.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Portland Prepares for the Freeway Fight of the Century

    A grass-capped highway expansion in a gentrifying neighborhood? Sounds familiar.

  2. A man walks out of the door frame of a building that collapsed after an earthquake, in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, Tuesday, September 19, 2017.
    Environment

    Mexico City's Earthquake, Through Residents' Eyes

    Here’s how locals responded when shocks struck the city.

  3. Equity

    This Startup Helps You Buy a House (If You Hand Over Your Airbnb Income)

    For buyers in hot real-estate markets, a new kind of mortgage offered by a company called Loftium might offer a way to purchase a home.

  4. Design

    Octopuses Are Urbanists, Too

    Scientists were surprised to find that this smart and solitary species had built a cephalopod city. Why?

  5. Smoke is released into the sky at an oil refinery in Wilmington, California
    Environment

    What Will Happen to the Gulf Coast If the Oil Industry Retreats?

    Hurricane Harvey pummeled the country’s energy infrastructure, and there are few incentives in place to promote renewables.