The Geography of Twitter

As social networking continues to erode the barriers of geographical separation, researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute have created a data visualization that illustrates the “geography” of Twitter. These results, displayed in a treemap, were attained by collecting all georeferenced tweets posted between March 5th and March 13th of this year. That data was condensed into a randomly chosen 20% sample set, which was then spatially organized by country. In the treemap, countries are sorted by continent; the size of each country’s block indicates the number of tweets made from that country, and the variation in color reveals the proportion of georeferencing Twitter users in comparison to the total number of internet users in that country.

According to the data, the geography of tweets is nowhere near equally distributed; one or two countries are responsible for far more tweets than many of the others combined. It is interesting to note, however, that of the top six tweeting countries, only two are commonly considered centers of codified knowledge output; America and the United Kingdom took first and third, respectively, but Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Malaysia filled in the rest of the top six list.

This globalization of information output could have a very real impact on the scope of knowledge distribution. Social media sites like Twitter provide a free outlet of expression for anyone capable of accessing the internet, so those who previously would have been unable to globally communicate ideas can their voices heard around the world. Personally, I welcome this connection; thanks to social sites like Twitter and Facebook, I have been able to make friends all over the world. These people have provided me with cultural and social insights that I would never have gotten otherwise, and I don’t think I would be the person I am today without their input.

As the geography of information continues to change and grow with time, more research on this subject will definitely be necessary; still, I think that the results of this study are promising. More and more countries are getting in on the information trade, and their contributions are expanding our awareness of the transcultural significance of the internet upon the world we live in; now that’s something to tweet about.