Is the Internet Awake? Visualization Shows Optimal Times to Reach a Large Audience

In an effort to give people a general sense of when the the world is awake, designer Bard Edlund created "Is the Internet Awake" to show approximately what time of day it is in the top 25 countries, based on number of broadband Internet users.

Bård says that many marketers and social media experts are taking note of his project and finding it useful, but that the infographic simply confirms what people already vaguely know.

"I think somehow this way of visualizing it is just crystallizing the knowledge for some people," Bård Edlund tells LAUNCH via email.  "I do want to emphasize, as I do on my site, that the graphic is not taking into account whether people are actually actively online. It's really just about whether people are likely awake or asleep -- so it's certainly not something to base your whole social strategy on. But I hope it's an interesting "quick check" for people who just want an 'approximate world clock,' as I call it."

While the clock gives you a probability of when people will be awake based on their broadband connection, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're reading tweets, blog posts or engaging with other marketing campaigns.

"Visually, I wanted to limit the number of countries included," Bård says. "I thought an interesting selection would be the countries that are the most active on the Internet, and broadband subscribers was the best measure of that I could find. I suppose I'm interested in these "Internet countries" because my own curiosity around who's awake and who's asleep is centered around people online."

The circles are sized according to the number of broadband subscribers in each country, based on measurements, which he gathered from Wikipedia, that span from December 2009 through June 2011. China has around 117M, the US has 83M+ and Romania, which is at the bottom of the list, has nearly 3M subscribers.

Relative to EST, the circles move back and forth across the chart as time passes. Time stretches across the X-axis so the farther the circle is to the left, the more likely it is that most people in that country are awake.

Other potential approaches for measuring "awakeness" include analyzing activity on Twitter, as well as activity on smartphones with data plans.

"I didn't try to measure "awakeness" by Twitter activity," Bård says. "If I could capture that by country, it might be a better graphic, but it would be a lot more complicated to build."

Bård says that using smartphones with data subscriptions might have been an interesting, and even more "contemporary" way to limit the list of countries than by broadband subscribers.

Bård's other projects include The Weather Wheel, visualization that shows cities with the highest annual temperatures, and the Dow Piano, an audiovisual presentation that shows the ups and downs of the Dow Jones in 2010.


Bård Edlund
Twitter: @edlundart