Visualizing Twitter’s Political Zeitgeist


Back in mid-November, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the kickoff of Medialab Prado’s Visualizar ’09 event in Madrid, Spain. The theme of this year’s Visualizar seminar was Public Data, Data in Public, a topic near and dear to Sunlight’s heart. The program kicked off with a day of public proposal presentations followed by a day of presentations from a variety of visualization visionaries, including Aaron Koblin and Stamen. Following the 2 day seminar, the real work began as the guest tutors and collaborators got to work on their proposed projects. Two weeks later, they presented the fruits of their labors. One such project to come out of this year’s Visualizar ’09 is New Political Interfaces, from Barcelona’s Aer Studio. This projects presents a pair of flash based visualizations focused on politics and is based on data pulled from Twittersphere.

Their first visualization compares various topics to determine correlations between what is being discussed by politicians, bloggers, and the traditional media outlets. Consider it a sort of visual political zeitgeist, through a twitter lens. new_political Their second visualization looks at the decay rate of a retweet over time, revealing the short attention span of the political twitterati. npi_retweet

While easy on the eyes and visually compelling, neither of these visualizations need necessarily be focused specifically on “politics.” Nonetheless, they provide an interesting view into the political realm and allow for a new and novel approach to comparing political “sentiment” as communicated via twitter.