FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Redrawing the Map into "Spheres of Influence"

The CommonCensus Map Project is using a web-based survey to literally redraw the map of the US. The project uses "spheres of influence" among major cities to distinguish regions that transcend traditional state boundaries.

Relying on the "wisdom of crowds," the map continually changes based on input from visitors to the CommonCensus site. Visitors are asked where they live, and then are asked to choose a city that has the most influence over their region. For instance, I live in southern New Jersey, which strongly identifies with Philadelphia (as opposed to northern New Jersey, which identifies with New York City). Not surprisingly, CommonCensus places South Jersey in the Philadelphia sphere of influence (which encompasses all of southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware as well). The New York City sphere covers North Jersey, most of the eastern third of New York State, northeastern Pennsylvania and southwestern Connecticut.

CommonCensus represents far more than an idle exercise. The results from such a survey could provide more accurate demographic data for marketing (especially if coupled with wealth and income data from sources such as Claritas PRIZM), as well as a basis for Congressional redistricting. At the very least, it could lead to a new (and more accurate) way of thinking about how geography relates to demographics, politics and commerce.