12 December 2010

SW England Redefined

MIT researchers have produced a novel means of assessing the UK's regional boundaries:

"Do regional boundaries defined by governments respect the more natural ways that people interact across space?  This paper proposes a novel, fine-grained approach to regional delineation, based on analyzing networks of billions of individual human transactions.  Given a geographical area and some measure of the strength of links between its inhabitants, we show how to partition the area into smaller, non-overlapping regions while minimizing the disruption to each person's links.  We tested our method on the largest non-Internet human network, inferred from a large telecommunications database in Great Britain.  Our partitioning algorithm yields geographically cohesive regions that correspond remarkably well with administrative regions, while unveiling unexpected spatial structures that had previously only been hypothesized in the literature.  We also quantify the effects of partitioning, showing for instance that the effects of a possible secession of Wales from Great Britain would be twice as disruptive for the human network than that of Scotland.
Carlo Ratti, Stanislav Sobolevsky, Francesco Calabrese, Clio Andris, Jonathan Reades, Mauro Martino, Rob Claxton, Steven H Strogatz - PLoS ONE, 2010"

Their method is explained on YouTube, and at this point, where the existing boundaries are superimposed, it indicates that the South West ought to lose East Dorset which, unsurprisingly, prefers to communicate eastwards: Bournemouth, Southampton etc.  Otherwise, quite a good fit, as would be expected for a peninsular region of an island.  It doesn't look as though the detail supports Cornish nationalism, given the would-be statelet's interaction with Plymouth on the other side of the border.

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