Sunday, December 16, 2012

Time-Space Compression

Image above: Travel can be a blur!

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Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

A mobile world diminishing in size! 

The concept of time-space compression continues to fascinate the geographer and "spatialogist". As we look back in history there has been a drastic change in spatial perception, distance and possible time
The spatial representations of air traffic movements are a great indication of the changed mobility of people, goods, ideas and microbes around the world every day. The spatial perception people have about the size of the world is vastly different to what it was 100 years ago(40 years ago for that matter). Not only does the telephone and internet enable us to talk (and see) someone on the other side of the world, we can hop on a plane and be on the other side of the world ourselves in 24 hours. Air travel has become increasingly accessible and affordable for a large number of the worlds population and hence the interchange of ideas, people and even diseases has increased remarkably. Many observers say that the resulting changed spatial perceptions of the world has been a major driver of globalisation phenomena over recent years. The world is a "mobile feast" with all the associated good and bad consequences.
Of interest to this blog is what is the impact on a persons spatial perception of the world and space as a result of this changed and ever diminishing "tyranny of distance"? Do people actually see the world as a smaller place. Just consider the following spatial representations of air traffic every 24 hours and some of the facts about air traffic in many of the countries of the world.

Air traffic visualisations and information on the links and the range of ways to show global flight movements.
The yellow dots are airplanes in the sky during a 24-hour period. Stay with the picture. You will see the light of the day moving from the east to the west as the Earth spins on it's axis. Also you will see the aircraft flow of traffic leaving the North American continent and travelling at night to arrive in the UK in the morning. Then you will see the flow changing, leaving the UK in the morning and flying to the American continent in daylight. It is a 24-hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in the world, condensed down to about 2 minutes. From space we look like a beehive of activity.
Such visualisations are wonderful ways to explore the related issues of increasingly world mobility with students.

World flights in 24 hours

United States Air Traffic in 24 hours
Europe Air Traffic in 24 hours in 3D!

Some facts about air traffic

From the National Air Traffic Controllers Association

On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only 35 per cent, or just over 30,000 of those flights are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings. Passenger and freight traffic forecasts projecting that in 2011 the air transport industry will handle 2.75 billion passengers (620 million more passengers than in 2006) and 36 million tonnes of international freight (7.5 million tonnes more than in 2006).
International passenger demand is expected to rise from 760 million passengers in 2006 to 980 million in 2011 at an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 5.1%.
International freight volumes are expected to grow at an AAGR of 4.8% over the forecast period, supported by economic growth, globalisation and trade.
Total international passenger numbers are forecast to be around 105 million in 2011, an increase of 30 million over 2006 levels.
"The numbers clearly show that the world wants to fly. And it also needs to fly. Air transport is critical to the fabric of the global economy, playing a critical role in wealth generation and poverty reduction. The livelihoods of 32 million people are tied to aviation, accounting for US$3.5 trillion in economic activity,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. 

 A recently released site profiles a very interesting map from the1932 Atlas of the Historical Geography of the UnitedStates showing the rate of travel by rail from New York City in 1800. As you can see, in 1 day you barely got out of the city by today's standards, and it took weeks to get only a couple states over. Time must have travelled slowly in those days and distance perception must have been so different to what we have today. A great example of time-space compression change.

So how do we and will we see the world spatially in the future? Is the world getting smaller in our brains?? Interestingly there seems to be a lack of research on this change in peoples spatial perception as a result of the real and virtual mobility around the planet.

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