A response to ‘Mapping a day in the life of twitter…’

16 Mar

by Georgina Leggate @GeorginaLeggate

Twitter Mapping

Please click on the above before you read my blog!

Isn’t that amazing? McDowall’s map is taking data journalism to the next level, and I for one am fascinated by it. On his science blog, he has documented the process of how, using data streaming, he was able to track tweets from all over the world. Four moths ago he hooked a computer up to the Twitter data streaming API and, over the course of a day and a bit, recorded every tweet that had geographic co-ordinates. He worte a python script to parse the 2GB of JSON files and used Matplotlib with the Basemap extension to animate 25 hours of data on a world map.

The resulting animation, plots almost  530,000 tweets-and remember these are just tweets with geo-coordinates enabled. What I personally  found so interesting when I looked at this map was the sheer amount of tweets in the UK and the United States, but let’s face it, this was pretty predictable considering how the majority of us Westerners operate nowadays. (Our daily use of handheld, mobile technology combined with our ever increasing variety of apps, downloads and need for tweets, makes the West a very technologically active place to live). It has just become routine for us to check our facebook pages and refresh our twitter feeds.

I was however shocked to see how many recorded tweets there was in Indonesia. A huge amount really… if you still have the map up on your screen, turn your attention to Indonesia. See how Jakarta glows as brightly as New York and San Francisco! BUT despite the obvious popularity of social networks, I couldn’t help but be shocked at how few ‘white dots’ appeared in Russia?! Or Canada?! How do these communities interact with one another. It baffles me. Note the black spots. With the exception of a few cities, such as Lagos and Johannesburg, Africa remains the Dark Continent.

With Twitter growing so fast internationally it is quite astonishing to think that the world of social media will have to expand even more, if it is to reach the heights of it’s fellow social networks such as Facebook. The last recorded figures showed that there are 500 million Facebook users worldwide. Twitter has over 150 million users, tweeting roughly 65 million times a day!

We are already seeing many journalists benefit from the vast coverage of stories they gain access to through using social networks, in particular Twitter. I for one would always turn to Twitter rather than TV to update myself on the news, entertainment and my friends comings, goings, but more often opinions! Over the past five weeks, social networks have demonstarted just how vital a role they play in the delivery of information right from the source itself (we have all seen the mobile phone footage, tweets and facebook statuses giving us the latest on the current crisis in Japan, New Zealand). So will the open exchange of information have a positive global impact for everyone? Or will social networks remain confined to their borders. I hope we’ll see another map like this, in 2015 with bigger, better coverage!


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