Ryerson University’s graduating Geographic Analysis and incoming Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) student, Michael Markieta, is making a splash in the UK and North-American media with his beautiful maps of global flight connectivity.
On May 23rd, the UK Daily Mail asked “Can you spot your holiday? The incredible images that reveal exactly where we fly every day” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2329443/The-incredible-images-reveal-fly-New-images-worlds-flight-paths.html). The next day, the Toronto Star picked up the map images and wrote “Ryerson student produces stunning images of every flight in the world. Our highly interconnected world becomes apparent in a project mapping all the flight paths on the planet” (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/05/24/ryerson_student_produces_stunning_images_of_every_flight_in_the_world.html). Metro News Toronto included one of the maps and a short text entitled “Have a visually nice flight” in their May 24th print edition. On May 27th, BBC News posted the series of nine global flight paths visualizations (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-22657086), followed by a collection of “Five interpretations” by an art critic, environmentalist, aviation consultant, data visualization expert, and philosopher (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22690684). Fox News has published yet another perspective on “Amazing images show airline flight paths across the globe” (http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2013/05/29/amazing-images-show-airline-flight-paths-across-globe/).
Michael first created maps from the OpenFlights airport and airline route databases in September 2011 for his personal blog at http://www.spatialanalysis.ca/2011/global-connectivity-mapping-out-flight-routes/. On his parttime position with global transportation planning and engineering firm Arup’s Toronto office, he redesigned the maps, which were first posted on Arup’s online magazine at http://www.arupconnect.com/2012/12/14/global-flight-paths/.
It is no surprise that a graduate of Ryerson’s Geography department is able to produce intriguing visualizations of a large geospatial dataset. The same data have been mapped by others, and there are alternative ways to look at air traffic, including live mapping of actual flight routes and airplane positions. The journalists reporting on Michael’s maps have somewhat exaggerated the practical uses of such maps, e.g. for communicable disease tracking. However, the blog post by James Cheshire, a lecturer at University College London (UK), on “What’s so Great About a World Flight Paths Map?” at http://spatial.ly/2013/05/great-world-flight-paths-map/ explains three elements that make Michael Markieta’s work so appealing and popular (with the BBC news approaching 15,000 social media shares at the time of my last update, see screenshot below).