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Visualizing the G20 Through Social Data

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The G20 Leaders’ Summit is this week in Brisbane, and Dr. Peta Mitchell of Queensland University of Technology has decided to peek inside the event barricades by mapping it as it plays out on Twitter and Instagram.

Mitchell will mine and analyze tweets and Instagram posts sent from inside the declared areas for location-based information, then plotting those – minus the corresponding usernames – on an interactive map the public can explore on this interactive online map.

It’s never been done for a G20 event, and Mitchell admits she really doesn’t know what kind of information the project will glean – or even how many tweets and images to expect each day from within the declared areas.

“I’m expecting to collect things like people’s reactions to the various G20 cultural activities, their opinions on traffic and public transport disruptions, political commentary as well as celebrity-spotting,” she says.

“Mapping Instagram posts is relatively straight-forward but mapping tweets to specific locations is problematic because only 1-3 per cent of Twitter users turn on their location services feature, which means I’ll need to look at the content of each tweet to glean information about where that user was standing when they sent it.”

Mitchell is using a process known as geoparsing to sift through potentially thousands of non-geotagged tweets per day, honing in on mentions of streets or landmarks within the declared areas, and assigning geographic coordinates to them.

She is also tracking delegates’ tweets and existing and emerging G20-related hashtags, such as #G20, #OnMyAgenda, #ColourMeBrisbane, #G20Cultural and #WalkingG20, and has already identified more than 180,000 G20-related tweets globally in the past two months.

Mitchell’s hope is that this big data mining and mapping project will provide a test bed for future large-scale events.

“From a pure research point of view, I want to know how a disruptive event like the G20 affects people’s mobility, and how it changes their perspective of Brisbane. Brisbane City Council has set clear aspirations for being an accessible, connected city, a friendly, safe city, and a New World City. The G20 is an extremely prestigious event that may put those aspirations at odds with each other.

“Understanding how people use social media to talk about the disruptions that big events cause in their daily lives is very useful for organizations involved in planning large events – governments, emergency services departments, transport authorities, event organizers and even insurance underwriters,” Mitchell says.

The interactive map went live yesterday, and you can check it out HERE.