Twitter Orographies

Twit­ter Oro­gra­phies is an exper­i­ment in the visu­al­iza­tion of Twit­ter con­ver­sa­tions. Built on top of pre­vi­ous exper­i­ments, this inter­faces aims to rep­re­sent the dis­cus­sion space of around a given key­word. It rep­re­sents the seman­tic space of top­ics that emerge, the rel­a­tive rel­e­vance of each topic, and the rela­tions between the dif­fer­ent top­ics that arise from the discussion.

Oper­a­tionally, Twit­ter Oro­gra­phies works by lis­ten­ing (in real time) to the stream of all the tweets that men­tion a given key­word (or hash­tag). Each one of these tweets is then ana­lyzed by remov­ing com­mon words with weak seman­tic con­tent (such as arti­cles and propo­si­tions) and the remain­ing words are added to a weighted net­work in which the dis­cus­sion top­ics are rep­re­sented by nodes (weighted by fre­quency) and weight of the edges rep­re­sent the relat­ed­ness of the top­ics (how often the two top­ics appear in the same tweet).
On the rep­re­sen­ta­tion level, the net­work is once again fil­tered, and the inter­face shows only the top­ics that reach a given thresh­old in a given amount of time (eg. top­ics cited at least twice in the last five min­utes). As time goes by, top­ics that are not cited often dis­ap­pear, and new pop­u­lar top­ics take their place, as do the asso­ci­a­tion between words.
Once the final net­work is defined, the inter­face cre­ates a seman­tic land­scape out of the dis­cus­sion, in which the most rel­e­vant top­ics appear as higher moun­tains and the emerg­ing top­ics as lower hills, and where the relat­ed­ness is mapped to topic prox­im­ity and dis­played through the use of explicit visual links.
The oro­graphic metaphor allows to track the evo­lu­tion of smaller and big­ger land­forms that rep­re­sent spe­cific top­ics, moun­tain sys­tems that dis­play clus­ters of related top­ics, oro­grafic belts cre­ated by chains of given words (usu­ally caused by pseudo-retweets).

The inter­face, while quan­ti­ta­tively hard to read with pre­ci­sion, pro­vides a space for explo­ration of a given dis­cus­sion and a dynamic map focused on the con­tin­u­ous evo­lu­tion of the seman­tic space. The sud­den appear­ance of rel­e­vant reliefs, the rel­a­tive per­sis­tence of given land­forms, the unsta­ble dynam­ics of the land­scape, com­mu­ni­cate on a famil­iar level the dif­fi­cult dynam­ics of social discussions.

An early ver­sion of this project (in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Unità di Crisi) has been pre­miered at ArtVerona 2011.

Twit­ter Oro­gra­phies uses and thanks:
The Twit­ter APIs
Alan Shaw’s won­der­ful Delau­nay AS3 library