Mapping the global footprint of Global Voices

October 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

Global Voices Online is an awesome organization. They have managed to inspire, cultivate and connect a global vanguard of social-media-savvy activists. Transnational networks of Arab bloggers that formed around GV were integral to Arab Spring, and this is just one part of GV’s global footprint. Brainchild of Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon, GV sprang from the Berkman Center in 2005.  In my academic work with Berkman, I’m surrounded by GV’s loving aunts and uncles, and I routinely encounter evidence of its social impacts in my commercial work.

Recently, Morningside has been working with GV Exec Director Ivan Sigal on mapping social media networks around GV.  Our ultimate goal is to profile the full GV ecosystem, including weblog, Twitter and Facebook networks connected to GV and its worldwide stable of editors and contributors.  I thought I’d share an early view of our progress, a mapping of weblogs linking to GV, the ecosystem around the organization itself.

The map shows what I expected in a way, that there is a truly diverse global community around GV. But as always with these things, the high-resolution details outclass the fluffy preconceptions.  Take a look:

Network of Weblogs citing GV

Briefly, here is how to interpret the map.  Each dot represents a weblog or blog-like node publishing online content.  The positions of the dots is the function of a physics model algorithm, in which nodes are pushed toward the edge of the circle by a general force, like a wind, but those that link to one another are pulled together, as though by a spring.  Groups of nodes that are more densely interlinked appear close to each other in the map.  The colors represent “attentive clusters,” groups of blogs with similar citation patterns, i.e. they link to the same kinds of things.  In this map, the clustering mainly reveals different languages and nationalities, since bloggers will tend to link to resources in their own language and relevant to their own national context.

There are over 30 clusters in this mapping, only some of which are labelled in the graphic. Many of the un-labelled clusters are of great interest. Notably, The middle of the map features clusters of European languages (French, German, Italian).  There are also clusters for Indonesia and Brazil.  Some languages have multiple clusters.  Spanish has a more Latin America-focused cluster, and a more Spain-focused one. Chinese and Arabic each have multiple distinct clusters.  If we include English language blogs, there are at least three additional clusters that focus on the Arab world.  It is fair to say that while GV has a hand in conversations around the globe, it plays an especially strong role connecting Arab discourse.  American political discourse is present, but not overwhelming.  The conversation around GV is truly diverse and global.

I’ll be writing more about this map in future posts.  The next goal of the project is to make an expanded mapping that includes all who cite GV’s entire community of bloggers and tweeters.  We expect some great insights to emerge from a larger GV-ecology study.  In addition to weblogs, we’ll map out the Twitter and FB networks around GV as well.  Stay tuned!


My Steve Jobs Encounter

October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Having seen so many great stories about people’s in-person encounters with Steve Jobs, I thought I’d share my own small tale. The scene outside the 5th Ave Apple Store the other day (pictured here) reminded me of it.

Years ago I spent two terms at Stanford as an “exchange scholar,” visiting from my normal perch at Columbia U and living in Palo Alto.  One weekend I was on my way to the local Apple Store, and saw Steve and his son sitting at one of several outdoor tables for a restaurant just down University Ave.  His son was in a team uniform (soccer, I assumed) and cleats, and they were munching on sandwiches.  It reminded me of the soccer game days I enjoyed as a boy with my father, and I thought it was cool to see one of my longtime heroes in suburban dad mode.

Anyway, I walked past them, down University, and into the Apple Store.  An employee greeted me, and I asked if he knew that Steve Jobs was just down the block.  He rolled his eyes in fake exasperation and said, “He comes in here all the time.”  Given Steve’s fearsome reputation for employee-obliterating perfectionism, and the fact that he lives in the neighborhood, the Palo Alto branch was a natural candidate for world’s most high-anxiety Apple Store.  Spot-check!  I asked the staffer how bad it was. Laughing, he said, “He’s actually pretty cool about it.  He usually walks back and forth in front of the store for a while, until we’ve seen him and had a minute to spread the word.  He doesn’t want us to worry about him.”

First Post

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

It had to be done.