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Visualizing Divisions and Bridges in Cyberspace

What the Tea Party has to do with Twitter and the anxieties of dating.

Data visualization is an obsession around here and viz-wiz duo Wattenberg and Viégas are among our absolute favorites. At the recent Personal Democracy Forum, they gave an excellent talk about some of their recent projects and how data visualization can be used to better comprehend behavioral patterns acorss the social web.

Among the highlights: Web Seer visualizes how different groups — men vs. women, Democrats vs. Republicans — complete the same Google Suggest search queries. (Remember Question Suggestions?)

We get a portrait of people’s anxieties.” ~ Martin Wattenberg

A new, unreleased project looks at trending topics on Twitter and uses hand-crafted (as opposed to algorithm-designed) visualizations to capture the racial profile of certain topics.

Another not-yet-released project looks at Twitter conversations algorithmically, clustering words related to a specific search term around certain topical areas based on the hashtags used in the tweet mentioning the search term — in this case, “Obama.”

The algorithm also allows you to switch to avatar view, offering a curious collective portrait of the kinds of people engaging in conversations about that topic.

There are a lot of divisions in cyberspace and visualization helps expose them, but it also helps expose how the bridges are being built.” ~ Martin Wattenberg

See more of Wattenberg and Viégas’ fantastic work on their new joint online home,


Published June 28, 2010




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