Are there in fact natural boundaries to the borders that we create as social creatures?
Let’s first examine the different borders we can define. We first have communication, from cell phone data. The map below, based on aggregated phone calls between counties, makes use of an algorithm we developed that detects communities within networks. The result is a visualization of highly connected counties, grouped together by color. These clusters of connected places sometimes coincide with political boundaries, but in many other cases do not.
One of the clearest regional differences in the U.S. can found by tracking the words people use to refer to soft drinks, which is in fact the map you saw at the top of this story. Pop or soda, or even Coke, these small linguistic differences are not as small as we might think. While “soda” commands the Northeast and West Coast (green) and “pop” is in between (black), “Coke” reigns in the south (turquoise). These small distinctions can often act as touchstones for larger cultural differences.