Cyberspatial proximity metrics: Reconceptualizing distance in the global Urban system

Matthew Zook, Lomme Devriendt, Martin Dodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In this paper we analyze how distances between a sample of a hundred major world cities varies when measured in cyberspace. The project develops a novel spatial statistical model based upon the number of user-generated placemarks indexed by Google Maps. We demonstrate how this metric captures the "invisible" patterns of intercity information flows and helps comprehend the contours of the complex digital network that exists between large urban centers across the world. Using a specially designed software program to interrogate Google Maps, a series of keyword searches ("tourism," "business," "hotel") as well as each of the city names were conducted in each of the sample places. Comparing this digital measure with the material movement of people and other relevant descriptive variables, such as national economic development and language differences, we were able to provide a cogent model that plausibly explains why certain city pairs (especially those that are physically distant) exhibit strong informational linkages. While the strength of these digital connections undoubtedly demonstrates the continued importance of physical proximity and established transport infrastructures in the twenty-first century, one can also observe significant evidence for [new?] digital "wormholes" which indicates that processes of globalization driven by online interaction also operates by its own rules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-114
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Urban Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies


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