Anders Johansson about London's tweets
Digitalisation is one of 2010LAB.tv’s main subjects in May. So let’s talk to a Londoner scientist about tweets – Anders Johansson did a 24h-animation of mobile and digital communication via twitter. Originally from Uddevalla (Sweden) he is a Research Associate at CASA, University College London, where he is working on urban mobility in the GENeSIS project.
Anders, what are you doing as a Research Associate?
I'm involved in a variety of research projects on different topics, but the underlying motivation that is driving most of my research is a quest to find out which rules and mechanisms on an individual level, lead to certain patterns on a global population level - similar to the work on segregation by Thomas Shelling in the 1970s, but in a much wider context.
Can you explain the matter of digitalisation for your work?
10 years ago, there was still a scarcity of data - at least in a format that was easy to access and use - but nowadays there is rather too much data available, which means that the challenge is now to make sense of all this data. This means that we have to find clever ways to process, filter and mine data, in order to obtain useful information embedded in the data. It is no coincidence that FuturICT, a 1 billion Euro effort to do exactly this type of large-scale data analysis, ended up as the highest ranked among all FET flagship proposals.
What’s the idea behind your animation about Tweets in London?
My animation of London Twitter activity was inspired by the brilliant animation of my colleague Joan Serras, of the public transport in the UK. I wanted to compare how communication patterns compared with travelling patterns, since tweeting and commuting are part of the the Londoners' daily routine. Another colleague, Fabian Neuhaus, had previously looked into hot-spots in the Twitterscape using data from the Tweet-o-Meter project by Steven Gray.
So what did you do?
My contribution was mainly to add a temporal dimension to these Twitterscapes, to see how things vary over the course of a day. In the meantime we have also looked into Twitter usage in San Francisco and Zurich and more cities are likely to follow.
Apparently the Twitter universe wake up much later than the real world of commuters. Why is it?
Daily transport patterns are very much driven by external factors like what time you are expected at work and when you are expected to pick up your children at the nursery, and so on. The Twitter communication patterns on the other hand, reflect the times when people feel they have something important to say (or when they are bored or excited). But the bottom line is, people can more freely choose what time they communicate online, and when, where, and with whom they communicate. Also, they are not constrained by physical or administrative boundaries.
London is a great place to live since people here are extremely quick to pick up the latest trends and make use of the latest technology. Sometimes it's even hard to keep up and it can be a bit distracting. But again, it's all about filtering out the useful pieces of information from an ever growing flood of data.
images: Anders Johansson | CASA | Steven Gray