Call for Papers: 'New Approaches for Measuring the Geography of Internet Traffic'

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2009 Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
Las Vegas, USA
22nd-27th March 2009

Ben Derudder, Ghent University
Richard E. Hanley, New York City Technical College
Mark Wilson, Michigan State University
Frank Witlox, Ghent University

Over the past few years, the empirical study of the geography of the Internet traffic has been largely based on capacity data such as backbone bandwidth size. Researchers thereby argue that, because it is virtually impossible to obtain measures of the actual volume of data flows between/in geographic locations, this backbone bandwidth size indicator (or more precisely: the partial bandwidth capacity) has been the best proxy around. However, for the second year in a row now, the total international Internet capacity grew faster than the actual Internet traffic. This has led, according to the Telegeography group, to a situation where the average bandwidth utilisation now stands at a meagre 29 percent. Furthermore, the degree of utilisation varies significantly geographically: while utilisation on international links to Europe and Asia fell in 2008, they rose in the US and Canada and Latin America (even to the degree that it outpaced the deployment of new Internet bandwidth). Overall, this implies that is increasingly difficult to sustain the notion that digital inter-city connections can be measured properly based on this bandwidth indicator.
Taken together, this suggests that we need a number of new approaches for measuring the Internet traffic between/in geographic locations. The formative purpose of this session is to think about how other approaches (e.g. VoIP traffic, geo-coding of IP-addresses, exchange points traffic, generated traffic at/between places in cyberspace) may provide us with alternatives for bandwidth volume as a measure for revealing the geography of Internet traffic, including alternative conceptual approaches for studying urban digital accessibility. Both empirical and conceptual papers are therefore welcomed, and we look forward to receiving proposals that make use of a variety of data sources, scales of analysis and methodological backgrounds.

Submitting papers

Interested participants should send an expression of interest, questions and/or title and abstract of 250 words or less to Ben Derudder (, Richard E. Hanley (RHanley@CityTech.Cuny.Edu), Mark Wilson (, and Frank Witlox ( by October 13th 2008. Contributors will have to register for the conference and submit their abstract the regular way (through the AAG website:, and should then send the registration code (PIN) they receive to us. Please note that you have to submit the abstract AND also pay, and then your PIN is activated. Once everyone has done this, we register for a special session, and mention all registration codes that will be in our session(s). Note also that we are thinking about putting together a themed issue of Journal of Urban Technology based on the abstracts and papers received.