Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The contours of Twitter

Strange Maps is a fascinating blog of, well, unusual maps, generally accompanied by interesting analysis of what they might tell us about ourselves. The example that led me to the site was a map of Twitter traffic in London.

I'm a bit surprised that more than one commenter is skeptical of the data on the grounds that financial centers like the City show less traffic than areas like Soho. Wikipedia describes Soho as "predominantly a fashionable district of upmarket restaurants and media offices" (which sounds about right) while the City I recall (from a decade or so back) rolled up the sidewalks around dusk as the white-collar crowd headed out to go homeward or pubward to relax.

Hmm ... is one more likely to tweet from the offices of some bank or trading house with the boss nearby, or while relaxing at an "upscale restaurant" afterwards -- or for that matter working at a "media office" during the day? Likewise for the case of Wall Street vs. New York's SoHo and La Defense vs. Levallois in Paris, particularly as Levallois is (Wikipedia again) "one of the most densely populated municipalities in Europe".

I'm more curious what the map would look like normalized for population, that is, tweets per person in a given area as opposed to raw tweets. Are there more tweets in central London than in the surrounding suburbs because there are more people? Also interesting would be a breakdown of both raw and normalized volume by time of day. The raw volume would at least to some degree track the flow of people in and out of the city, while the normalized volume would be affected both by that and by people's daily habits.

[Happily, Strange Maps is still in business, and still keepin' it strange --D.H. Dec 2015]

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