John Robb: Visualizing the Arab Spring Information Flows – Revolutions Were Tweeted

Advanced Cyber/IO, Civil Society, Cultural Intelligence
John Robb

The Revolutions Were Tweeted: Information Flows During the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions

The shift from an era of broadcast mass media to that of networked digital media has altered both information flows and the nature of news work. Mainstream media (MSM) outlets have adopted Twitter as a means of engaging with and enlarging audiences, strengthening their reach and influence while also changing how they rely on and republish sources. During unplanned or critical world events such as the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, MSM turn to Twitter, both to learn from on-the-ground sources and to rapidly distribute updates.

The data and findings on this site are based on our paper The Revolutions were Tweeted in which we extracted and analyzed prominent information flows on Twitter during the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. The flows are drawn from two datasets of public tweets each shared during a period of approximately one week. The first covers the Tunisian demonstrations from January 12–19, 2011; the second covers the Egyptian demonstrations from January 24–29, 2011. We analyzed both data sets to identify different types of users who posted to Twitter regularly, sorting them into what we call “key actor types”: e.g., MSM organizations, individual journalists, influential regional and global actors, and other participants who actively posted to Twitter on these two revolutions. We look at how each actor produced and passed information over the networks of Twitter users. In each case—Tunisia and Egypt—we describe how information flowed across different actor types and discuss why we see certain patterns. We conclude by discussing the symbiotic relationship between news media and information sources.

We display our coded and analyzed data on this site for others to explore. By clicking on ‘start visualization’ you can dive into specific information flows, seeing the actor types we identified during the coding process.

 Phi Beta Iota:  Two ominous signs in the USA are that the Day of Rage (which is about electoral reform) was squelched across the corporate news media, and Mayor Bloomberg blanketed the area with cell jammers to repress any social network communications.  The police state is alive and well in New York City.