Professor in Political Science and Computer and Information Science

David Lazer

Whisper: Tracing the Spatiotemporal Process of Information Diffusion in Real Time

Peer Reviewed Computer Science Conference
Publication date: 
Nan Cao
Yu-Ru Lin
Xiaohua Sun
David Lazer
Shixia Liu
Huamin Qu
Whisper: Tracing the Spatiotemporal Process of Information Diffusion in Real Time

When and where is an idea dispersed? Social media, like Twitter, has been increasingly used for exchanging information, opinions and emotions about events that are happening across the world. Here we propose a novel visualization design, "Whisper," for tracing the process of information diffusion in social media in real time. Our design highlights three major charateristics of diffusion processes in social media: the temporal trend, social-spatial extent, and community response of a topic of interest. Such social, spatiotemporal processes are conveyed based on a sunflower metaphor whose seeds are often dispersed far away. In Whisper, we summarize the collective responses of communities on a given topic based on how tweets were retweeted by groups of users, through representing the sentiments extracted from the tweets, and tracing the pathways of retweets on a spatial hierarchial layout. We use an efficient flux line-drawing algorithm to trace multiple pathways so the temporal and spatial patterns can be identified even for a bursty event. A focused diffusion series highlights key roles such as opinion leaders in the diffusion process. We demonstrate how our design facilitates the understanding of when and where a piece of information is dispersed and what are the social responses of the crowd, for large-scale events including political campaigns and natural disasters. Initial feedback from domain experts suggests promising use for today's information consumption and dispersion in the wild.

Research Areas TOC

Computational Social Science, Collective Cognition

Computational Social Science, 21st Century Democracy, Political Networks

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