Infographic: What’s Different About The 2012 Olympics? Social Media, Basically

The Olympics are one of our oldest traditions–a time capsule we revisit every four years. And while its athletes gradually become stronger and faster, other technologies have been advancing exponentially.

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This infographic by Pappas Group really puts that idea into perspective. It compares the size of social media in 2008 with 2012, using Olympic events like weight lifting and pole vault to scale just how much this sector has grown.

“When we began to visualize the impact of the Summer Games on branded social media, each category we were looking at took on its own event-like stature. So the idea of using a traditional isometric style to create an Olympic arena of sorts seemed like a natural fit,” explains Art Director Spencer Slemenda. “We started thinking of different events and how they would affect the chart data. The integration of the cut-out athletes came quite easily from that.”

The visuals are remarkably effective at fleshing out these stats–let’s just admit it, swimmers competing for first place, even if they just create a bar graph anyway, are far more interesting to look at than a traditional graph. But there’s a larger point that we see in Pappas’s infographic that’s more important than the sheer number of Facebook subscribers or the amount companies like P&G spend on advertisements: The web, Internet, or cloud, whatever you call it, powers entities that expand on the exponential scale, a scale far beyond the frameworks of even the most impressive physical specimens of the human species. And so while it’s not so hard to imagine the Olympics in another hundred years, imagining the digital infrastructure behind them becomes entirely unfathomable.MW