December 20, 2009

Searching for Santa: Locating the most Christmassy Points in the World

A question asked by children and adults for generations has been, "Where does Santa live?" While some may scoff that there is an obvious answer to this ("The North Pole") any rational thinker easily sees why that simply cannot be. The lack of a suitable landmass to construct the necessary castle and workshops, the deficit of a robust power grid and the complete absence of basic raw materials like wood, plastic or sugared plums, make the North Pole a poor location for any sort of industrial- or craft-style production. Moreover, the modern obsession with planting flags (both above and beneath the ice) guarantees a steady stream of unwanted (and potentially naughty) visitors.

It is far more reasonable to suppose that Santa has utilized a combination of locational analysis, centrography, transportation topographies and central place theory to select an optimal site for his headquarters. However, since access to his list of priorities (including secrecy) and model specifications is closely guarded, replicating Santa's thinking process is simply not possible.

Instead the Anglo-American research team of decided to leverage the power of Web 2.0 technologies (user produced services and content) to triangulate Santa's location. After all the collective knowledge of the Internet is clearly more than any one of us alone. Right? Right?

Using the patented approach we searched for references to "santa" and "reindeer" in user generated placemarks indexed by Google Maps. After all, Santa and Reindeer go together almost as well as that classic cinema couple, Turner and Hooch. Unfortunately for lovers of folk tales, the polar projections below illustrate that there is a decided dearth of references to Santa at the North Pole.

Polar Projection of Santa
Instead we see that the entire Nordic region of Europe is covered in a virtual "duvet of Santa"! North America needs to be content with a much lighter "blanketing of St. Nick". If one assumes that Santa needs to be located as close to the pole as possible, then a few other extreme northern locations also emerge, such as the "coverlet-ing of Father Christmas" on Svalbard and the "quilt-ing of Pere Noel" on the Severnaya Zemlya archipeligo.

Polar Projection of Reindeer
Reindeer are much less prevalent than Santa (which is hard to understand given the 8:1 ratio) but the Nordic region, Svalbard and Alaska are all looking like strong contenders.

However, it is only when we amalgamate Santa and Reindeer together in some kind of googlistic geo-genetic goo that we are able to zero in on the exact locations of Santa's global enterprise. (And they called us MAD! We'll show them!) We will of course not reveal the exact locations (we're hoping for more than coal in our stockings) but will highlight the general areas.

The MegaChristmas Index – Global View

The MegaChristmas Index – Polar View
In retrospect it seems so obvious, but the most Christmassy points in the world are Los Angeles (measured in raw Christmasness) and near the town of Kittilä, Finland (measured in Christmasness per capita). Clearly in the 21st century, Santa has recognized the value of geographical diversification in order to leverage the competitive advantages of each location. Los Angeles offers access to the creative talent of show business and the technological innovation of a world class manufacturing milieu. Kittilä offers...Trees? Moss? Rare Lichen? we are less familiar with Northern Finland as befits some one in today's networked society, the locational advantages of Kittilä must wait until another posting. Any Kittilä-ites (-onians? –ese? –ians?) are welcome to address this issue as well.

We were at first stymied by the strong showing of Angola for reindeer but upon reflection we theorize that this is a likely location of Santa's post-December vacation. According to this theory, Santa flies his reindeer team for several well deserved weeks of R&R incognito. Since reindeer, however, are not indigenous to tropical climates, their presence does not go unnoted. Likewise, trips to the Falkland Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Florida seem highly probably as well. It should be noted that this is simply a theory and unlike the rigorous analysis on the location of Santa's workshop, further research on this topic is needed.

Likewise we plan on taking a closer look at the sub-national networks of Santa's enterprise. The U.S. maps below confirm Southern California's Santaness but shows some highly suspicious clusters of reindeerness in Texas and Missouri. Do these represent regional distribution centers? R&D centers? Back office customer support? Only further research will tell.

Santa Normalized in the U.S.
Reindeer Normalized in the U.S.

So. Age old question answered through the judicious use of technology.

We just hope we don't end up on the naughty list for this.

1 comment:

  1. I think the author is missing the critical role that Elf migration plays in establishing a nodal connection between reindeer and Santa. It's a bit short sighted to ignore the low-hanging fruit offered by the movement of these clever creatures. However, he does make a point about the transnational ambiguity presented by the data. Overall, this solid piece of work will no doubt further our understanding of the emerging field. Like Peace Studies and Community Planning many years ago, the author is defining a new field of study from which many a young mind will be molded.


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