Co.Design

Map: How New York Tweeted During Hurricane Sandy

A close examination of geolocation data is as telling as it is confounding.

During Hurricane Sandy, New York was, unsurprisingly, the world headquarters of tweets about Sandy. Its involvement in the storm, coupled with its population, made the city the overwhelming social media voice of the event.

Click to enlarge.

So what can we learn from that data? Floating Sheep created this map of geotagged tweets that occurred in the days before and during the storm. What they found was that Manhattan, with the greatest population and wealth, put out the most tweets. Some events prompted noticeable responses in various geographic areas--the best example being the infamous crane dangling on 57th street, which appears as a big blue circle just south of Central Park--but other events, like evacuations and explosions, can’t even be spotted on this map.

For the most part, tweets follow streets (rather than emergency events), permeating throughout boroughs with fair regularity. It appears preplanned evacuations had more people tweeting from the relative safety of their homes, and those stuck in actual emergencies (versus mere looming terror) were probably less likely to hop on their cellphones to knock out 140 characters on the topic.

Floating Sheep points out something very interesting, however: While tweet representation in lower-income areas like Harlem was solid (far more representative than Katrina’s destruction of the physical and digital presence of the Lower 9th Ward), out of the millions of Spanish speakers affected by the storm, they counted a mere five tweets referencing the floods in Spanish*. So while Twitter may be bridging the gap of affluence, there are clearly still some strange shortcomings in its demographic reach.

* Clement Brygier points out that 14% of Twitter’s users are hispanic, meaning that Spanish speakers may just prefer to tweet in English.

See more here.

Add New Comment

8 Comments

  • Charles

    Obviously, this is skewed away from the thousands of non-geolocated tweets sent out over the past two weeks by groups such as @nycarecs, @sinycliving and other locally based groups.

  • Anna Smith

    And though Harlem gets to be, yet again, the poster child lower-income New Yorkers, it's not even represented in the graphic.

  • Brielle Maxwell

     Same with the Bronx! I was tweeting from the Bronx hoping to see a little blue dot at least.

  • Patrickjonomiller

    A big chunk of NYC is not included. There's more to it than Manhattan and the East Coast of Brooklyn.

  • John Hartshorn (MapSqueak)

    This is an excellent example of the value of both location and time when it comes to snippets of information.   The value of location is immense, and when you add the time element to that, these combined provide the single most useful context to information.  This is exactly the intent of an app called MapSqueak that we have just launched for iPhone (and will for other platforms in due course).  The differences between Twitter and MapSqueak is that the map is the primary interface to the content posted, the on board iPhone GPS provides a high quality spatial location, time validity is given to each posting, and whilst positioned in the "Social Networking" category, it doesn't rely on following or being followed by others.  It's a shame that it takes a major incident to demonstrate the worth of a map for providing context to information, however, and my best wishes to the people of the Eastern Seaboard in getting things sorted.

  • Ktcarley

    Once again, Staten Island is not included in this representation of New York. #forgottenborough