Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter

  • Kalev Leetaru University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Shaowen Wang University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Guofeng Cao University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Anand Padmanabhan University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Eric Shook University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract

In just under seven years, Twitter has grown to count nearly 3% of the entire global population among its active users who have sent more than 170 billion 140-character messages. Today the service plays such a significant role in American culture that the Library of Congress has assembled a permanent archive of the site back to its first tweet, updated daily. With its open API, Twitter has become one of the most popular data sources for social research, yet the majority of the literature has focused on it as a text or network graph source, with only limited efforts to date focusing exclusively on the geography of Twitter, assessing the various sources of geographic information on the service and their accuracy. More than 3% of all tweets are found to have native location information available, while a naive geocoder based on a simple major cities gazetteer and relying on the user-provided Location and Profile fields is able to geolocate more than a third of all tweets with high accuracy when measured against the GPS-based baseline. Geographic proximity is found to play a minimal role both in who users communicate with and what they communicate about, providing evidence that social media is shifting the communicative landscape.

Author Biographies

Kalev Leetaru, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Kalev Leetaru is a University Fellow at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science. His work focuses on ?big data? analyses of space, time, and network structure to understand human society and culture through its communicative footprints and is the author of Data Mining Methods for the Content Analyst from Routledge.
Shaowen Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Shaowen Wang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, and founding Director of the CyberInfrastructure and Geospatial Information Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Guofeng Cao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Guofeng Cao is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science and the CyberInfrastructure and Geospatial Information Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include geographic information science, spatiotemporal analysis and location-based social media data analysis.
Anand Padmanabhan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Anand Padmanabhan is a research scientist in the CyberInfrastructure and Geospatial Information Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His primary research interests include the development of large-scale distributed environments based on Grid computing, multi-agent systems, and P2P systems.
Eric Shook, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Eric Shook is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science and the CyberInfrastructure and Geospatial Information Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include large scale agent-based modeling and high performance computing.
Published
2013-04-22
How to Cite
Leetaru, K., Wang, S., Cao, G., Padmanabhan, A., & Shook, E. (2013). Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter. First Monday, 18(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v18i5.4366
Section
Articles