Thursday, 16 June 2011

Justin Bieber across the Mountains - Twitter Networks


How does the social network link location as people communicate? It would be very interesting to see how communication pattern link to location and context.

There is already quite some good stuff on this topic. Only recently John Reads defended successfully his PhD on a topic in this field. He was looking at telecommunication patterns in the South East and London region base on land line connections. He found some interesting patterns of linkages and hubs and was able to identify regions according to dominant trades. Also some landscape features showed up. For example the Thames was acting as a barrier even in the realm of phone call connections.

The TwitterNetworks of London, San Francisco or Munich generated from the NCL datasets are quite interesting where we can see how individuals are connected via interaction on te Twitter plattform using @-tweets and RT-tweets. The networks are built establishing the edges using these two direction indicators. Other networks based on twitter data have been focusing on institutions and text as with the 'Why Mediate Art' project.

NCLn_CH_networkUA
Image by urbanTick for NCLn / Circular graph showing the connection between the data sets collected for different urban areas in Switzerland. No connections between them exist, each one operates separate.

Recently the NCL network ha been looking at areas in Switzerland and mapped out the four large urban areas Zuerich, Geneva, Basel and Bern. Overall it is quite visible that Twitter is not as popular as it is in other parts of the world. It is still sort of seen as a time waister and something for nerds. This was aso reflected in the language settings with foreign languages dominating the fields. It seems quite popular with people to keep in touch with other parts of the world.

Switzerland is quite small and the linkages between the cities are well established. This is supported by a perfect public transport network and a wealth of political mechanisms to ensure equality and exchange. However socially of course the different languages to separate different communities. French is spoken in the West, German in central and North and Italian in the South of Switzerland. In the middle of sorts there is the dominating geographical landscape feature, the alps acting as barriers.

This complicated setting of barriers and ties makes Switzerland an interesting study object for social networks. It would be great to see how the different urban areas connect via individuals on social networking platforms.

Regarding our Twitter data we have two data sources. One is the individual records for each urban area over the period of one week, the other is a week long record of location based tweets sent across the whole of Switzerland including the south of Germany and the north of Italy with Milan.

NCLn_CH_overviewNetwork
Image by urbanTick for NCLn / Showing the social connections as found on Twitter within Switzerland. Data based on a location based Twitter record over the period of one week.
The alps in the centre act as barrier with only a few connections crossing them, either via a celebrity Twitter account, in this case Justin Biber and Jessica Alba or physical travel.


Looking at the first data set with individual records for each urban area, the networks separate out each city with no established connections between them. It was sort of expected, since the sample is small and the parameters are tight with only location based tweets.

Looking at the second dataset where the whole area was simultaneously recorded the big barriers show up clearly and there is a well established separation between North and South showing the alps as mountainous Twitter blockers. Interesting however, are especially the links across this barrier and there are some. Three links connect the norther part consisting of Geneva, Basel, Bern, Zuerich and southern Germany with the southern part consisting of Milan, Como and Turin. They represent different types.

The first type is the link via a common third party that is not necessarily in the area. This is most likely a very active and popular twitter acount. In this case there are three celebrities that establish the connections. They are Justin Biber, Jessica Alba and some guy Kenny Hamilton. These are the hubs that individual Twitter users from both sides of the mountains tweet at and establish a sort of second grade connection.

There is also the other type of first hand connections. this is established by an individua traveling around and tweeting both to connections in Milan, the southern part and users in Zuerich, the northern part. The fact that the individual has actually physically traveled between the two parts enforces these connections.

NCLn_CH_overviewGeography
Image by urbanTick for NCLn / Switzerland with the locations of recorded tweets. This has been collected over a period of one week. The purple line shows the route travels by one individual users tweeting along the way and interacting with other user from both sides of the mountainous barrier.

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