A Web of Airways and Hubs

The emergence of global economic processes has been largely driven by the establishment of rapid air transport connections across continents and the spread of information and communication tools and networks enabling diverse data traffic (Figure 28).

The term hub was first coined in transportation geography, referring to the air traffic junctures and transit points serving as the biggest assembly and distribution centers. Hubs have gained huge significance in parallel with globalization, and the development potential of certain cities is defined by their capacity to become global hubs. When a city forges crosscontinent links, it gains a situational advantage that enables it to better utilize its local attributes. This then creates a direct feedback loop to its role within the global or regional network of communities. This is why the centers playing various territorial roles are referred to as gateways or hub cities in urban network studies, referring to their capacity to “open the gates” to their broader region through their large-scale transportation links. The hub role in the air traffic network and developments linked to air transport thus often have additional significance. The patterns of this network also determine the “winning regions” of the urban competition in the processes of globalization. Based on the miles flown by international air travelers in 2010, the airlines clocking the most traveler miles spent in the air are Dubai’s Emirates, Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines, Air France, British Airways, the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. The territorial patterns of the air connections operated by these leading airlines also outline the most developed and most significant metropolises within the global economy.

Figure 28 The geographic Distribution of Air Traffic Junctures

Source: Robert Hamill

 

The Global Network of the Facebook Space

Since the Industrial Revolution, the speed of information dissemination has been mainly shaped by the development and opportunities of transportation infrastructure. This speed has switched to a higher gear with the advances in telecommunication infrastructure over the past century. However, the infrastructural progress of the past 15 to 20 years has paved the way for a new phenomenon of which Facebook has become the poster child, a phenomenon that can be defined as social networks based on global social foundations. The density and crosscontinental nature of these networks is ever-growing.

The relationships represented on a global scale in Facebook’s social network rapidly increased in density between 2010 and 2013, with the website registering 1.11 billion regular monthly users in 2013. The 23% increase in users over the course of a single year, between March 2012 and March 2013, from 901 million, testifies to its dynamic development. Meanwhile, in early 2016 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reported that the number of users had reached 2 billion (Figure 29).

Figure 29 Distribution of Facebook Users Across the Globe

Source: Recreo Viral

The Facebook Connectivity Lab has been analyzing and mapping the location and relationships of the website’s users for years, and the identified trends clearly show that the areas (“dark spots”) inhabited by users with no Facebook profile are continuously shrinking, even though some areas are very slow in joining the global Facebook network. The number of users on the African continent is low mainly as a result of poor infrastructure and digital illiteracy, but the future is expected to bring significant growth. There are also huge development opportunities for Facebook in India, as their poor infrastructure continues to hinder growth. The Facebook think tank has also investigated 20 other countries besides India and has found that access to Internet remains difficult in the rural parts of Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The “black patch” over China’s territory does not stem from infrastructural reasons, but from the fact that Facebook is blocked in the entire country in the context of the Great Firewall of China imposed by the government. This is an example of a regulatory obstacle to the globalization of social networks. The Chinese government blocked access to Facebook and other highly popular social networking sites, including Twitter and YouTube, following the Ürümqi (capital of the Uyghur region) riots that claimed 140 victims in 2009. Chinese Internet users responded by using their own unique national social networks, including Weibo, Weixin and Renren.

Another darker area on the map of Facebook connections is Russia, its lag stemming from the popularity of its own national Vkontakte social media website rather than from any regulatory restrictions. The website is more popular than Facebook, making the latter the runner-up in the ranking.61

Over time, we can see that while the darker patches remain largely permanent, the lighter areas that feature richer network relationships continue to progress even further and integrate even deeper into the system of social communication taking place over the Internet. Social inequalities increase in this domain as well.

 

FEATURES OF THE WORLD’S AIR TRAFFIC NETWORK 60

  • Every country, irrespective of its size, can be reached via the aircraft of at least one airline.
  • Every airline that has aircraft of adequate size operates flights to New York or London, the latter a consequence of earlier colonial ties. Airlines that serve two US destinations also operate flights to either Washington or Los Angeles.
  • According to traveler traffic data, the Canary Islands are the most popular holiday destination in Europe, followed by Spain and Portugal.
  • The leading holiday destinations for air travelers in America are Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.
  • Asia’s most popular destinations are the Philippines, Okinawa, Thailand, Guam, which is located between Mexico and the Philippines, and Bali.
  • The density of flights in Europe far exceeds those in Japan or the United States. Europe boasts more airlines than any other place in the world.
  • Flights denisty per capita, Australia comes in first.
  • Every Muslim country operates flights to Jeddah located in the Makkah Region on the coast of the Red Sea, often referred to as Saudi Arabia’s touristic center and second most important city, as well as to the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh.
  • Eighty percent of international flights in Central and South America serve US destinations, with the main urban connection points being Miami, New York, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles.
  • The African airways are mainly ruled by South African airlines.
  • The countries with the weakest ties to the air traffic network are Iraq, the Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Nepal and Peru.
  • The surprisingly high air traffic of certain regions creates local economic or political issues and conflicts, for instance in Egypt, Ethiopia, Mali, Sri Lanka, Russia, Togo, Ghana, Ecuador, Angola or Bangladesh.