Monday, February 14, 2011

Twitter Contagion

(Click on the image for a full-sized view)

"Egypt is the crystal ball in which the Arab world sees its future," writes Kovas Boguta, creator of this data visualization (above), which analyzes the Twitter communication that erupted during the recent youth uprising in Egypt .

Boguta, founder and CTO of Infoharmoni -- which analyzes real-time social structures on the Web -- says he arranged the map to place individual Twitter users close to the people with whom they communicate. The red and blue dots represent which language users were using to communicate (Arabic is denoted in red, while English is denoted in blue). The size of the dots represents the individual's influence on the group as a whole. Different factions are placed near the factions they influence, revealing how weak ties get stronger.

Boguta offered this explanation February 11th on his blog, Computational History:

“Many fascinating structures can be seen. Wael Ghonim, a pivotal figure in this self-organizing system who instigated the initial protests on January 25th, is prominently located near the bottom of the network, straddling two factions as well as two languages. The size of his node reflects his influence on the entire network.

The lump on the left is dominated by journalists, NGO and foreign policy types; it seems nearly grafted on, and goes through an intermediary buffer layer before making contact with the true Egyptian activists on the ground. However, this process of translation and aggregation is key; it is how those in Egypt are finally getting a voice in Western society, and an insurance policy against regime violence. Many of the prominent nodes in this network were at some point arrested, but their deep connectivity help ensure they were not ‘disappeared’.”

"Most of those in this network speak both English and Arabic, and their choice of language says a lot about both the movement and about Twitter. Some may choose to primarily communicate with friends, while others make an effort to be visible to the rest of the world on purpose. They want to reach out, and connect with, the rest of global society."

Boguta told TechCrunch at the launch of Infoharmoni in 2009:

People are social animals, and love to both move in packs and purposefully individuate. ... Existing social groups incubate new topics of interest on Twitter, and existing interests incubate new social groups. Both move in response to each other. Twitter bills itself as the pulse of the planet, but it's more like the pulse of creative networks.

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