Monday, 20 August 2012

Tweeting the Past

Not so very long ago capture and analysis of the live stream of geolocated tweets using Twitters streaming API was at the cutting edge of social science research. Caught up in the wow of it all we (at Vista) built an application to capture the live stream and after a 50 day proving run had ourselves 1.87 million tweets to analyse.  

50 days, 1.87 million geolocated tweets for the British Isles

Much of the analysis of twitter data has tended to focus on the spatial patters of use or the social networks revealed by the complex interrelationship of users  We we interested primarily on information relation to heritage, what do people tweet about heritage subject, where from, etc.  Results, it has to be admitted, were modest. Over 50 days only 22 tweets mentioning archaeology - including the wonderfully derogatory "goodness me archaeology is boring" (with more than a nod to Armstrong and Miller).  More interesting were spatial patterns of tweets in relation to heritage imbued landscapes, archetypally tweets from Stonehenge, displaying wonder at the monument and often accompanied by tweeter links to pictures.  This is richer fare for the study of reception of the past, and deserved more thought than we gave it at the time.  You can read about our work in the presentation below and in our paper A software system for data mining with twitter Proceedings of 2011, 10th IEEE International Conference on Cybernetic Intelligent Systems, CIS 2011, pp. 139–144, 2011.

And now, barely a year later, everybody is grabbing and mapping the live twitter stream.  Some of the applications are quite impressive, my personal favorite this live map of tweets from the Middle East, greatly revealing of the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. What is still more astounding is that in the latest iteration of Bing Maps, Microsoft have added the facility to map live tweets against a Bing maps background. So, here, by way of experiment, live maps of all tweets from the Stonehenge area, and all tweets from the UK mentioning "archaeology". Remember, these are live maps and so most tweets will be sent during UK daylight hours  especially from Stonehenge.