Northeastern University

In Turkey, conversation continues

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Turkey protests infographic copyLast month, the Turkish protests were all over the place in the news. This month, media attention has shifted to Egypt but that doesn’t mean everything has worked itself out on the other side of the Mediterranean. The New York Times wrote about it the other day in an article titled After Protests, Forums Spark in Turkey’s Parks. Online and off, the conversation continues among those most vested in it: Turkish citizens.

The article got me thinking about an infographic that Sternberg Distinguished Professor Alessandro Vespignani’s team put out a few weeks ago, which outlines that part of the conversation that took place on Twitter. The team, which includes graduate students Fabio Ciulla, Delia Mocanu and graphic designer Nicole Samay, is studying social media use in attempt to determine whether these kind of data could be used to develop mathematical models of social collective phenomena.

Back in June the police response to the protests was violent and heavy-handed. Four people died. Now citizens are apparently coming together across political, sectarian, ethnic, and social boundaries, according to the Times article, to figure out where to go from here. Gatherings in the country’s parks are being called “people’s forums” and are intended to provide a new form of peaceful dissent. While the majority of the conversation has so far taken place on Twitter, not everybody uses the Internet, so it seems these people’s forums are providing a kind of link between what’s happening online and in the real world.

But as they say in the graphic, “following Twitter’s most popular hashtags related to the protests, it is possible to have a spatiotemporal mapping of the Turkish events.” That is, since so much of this was happening online, they can use that data to show what what was happening in the real world simultaneously.

So, first, here’s the spatial part:

Click for a bigger view.

Click for a closer look.

Looking at only those Tweets that have been tagged with a geolocalized position, the team was able to show where the majority of the conversation surrounding the protests was taking place within Turkey. Unsurprisingly, it was localized to Istanbul, but there are other pockets around the country where the conversation was strong as well. “The protest indeed has spread to other major urban areas in Turkey such as the capital city Ankara, thus showing broader support than just the city of Istanbul,” said Vespignani.

And here’s the temporal part:

Turkey protests infographic copy

Click for a closer look.

Looking at the volume of tweets associated with particular hashtags–both within Turkey and around the globe–the team was able to visualize exactly how things began to escalate. It may be a coincidence, but I think it’s interesting that the most tragic events took place just as the conversation began to cool. It’s also not so surprising that the yellow line, which represents the global conversation, only jumps a little on the most active days of the protest. No wonder the turmoil has so quickly receded into our peripheral vision.

Of course it’s hard to keep abreast of everything that’s happening out there in the world (and in the universe, no less, if you’re into that sort of stuff), graphics like this help, at least for me, to put it all into the bigger picture.

You can see the whole infographic at once by clicking on the image below.

View the full infographic here.

Click to view the full infographic.


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