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Make the invisible visible: Visualizing public discourse and information flows in Social Media

Authors: Jaehee Park*, San Diego State University/UC Santa Barbara
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Cartography
Keywords: social media, social network, spatial social network, information diffusion
Session Type: Guided Poster
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Social media has been a venue for public discourse surrounding diverse social issues. Many studies revealed that social media has played an important role in understanding public voice regarding diverse issues.However, most previous studies focused on analyzing discourse itself with a lack of considering the spatial context. Given that different cities have different cultures, histories, political views, and demographic compositions, these factors will affect in shaping one’s opinions regarding various political events or social movements in different cities. In addition, given that the spread of fake news or false information and spams on social media can affect public discourse, it is important to identify and locate where the messages come from and what and how information diffuses on social media. Therefore, this study investigates the racially and politically charged public discourse regarding the Charlottesville attack in a spatio-temporal context. To capture whether people show similar or different patterns in terms of the interest towards the event by city, and how information diffuses between cities, we analyzed geo-located tweets from 23 cities in the U.S. By building a city-level spatial social network, we visualize information flows between cities.
Following the principles of cartographic design, this study visualizes the volume and flows of information between cities by utilizing both and graduated symbol maps and flow maps. With these maps, the invisible information flows in cyberspace become visible. The results of this study reveal different information diffusion patterns by city and demonstrate the connection between people’s communication and the real world.

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