Visualizing the “heartbeat” of a city with tweets

Urbano França, Hiroki Sayama, Colin Mcswiggen, Roozbeh Daneshvar, Yaneer Bar-Yam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Describing the dynamics of a city is a crucial step to both understanding the human activity in urban environments and to planning and designing cities accordingly. Here, we describe the collective dynamics of New York City (NYC) and surrounding areas as seen through the lens of Twitter usage. In particular, we observe and quantify the patterns that emerge naturally from the hourly activities in different areas of NYC, and discuss how they can be used to understand the urban areas. Using a dataset that includes more than 6 million geolocated Twitter messages we construct a movie of the geographic density of tweets. We observe the diurnal “heartbeat” of the NYC area. The largest scale dynamics are the waking and sleeping cycle and commuting from residential communities to office areas in Manhattan. Hourly dynamics reflect the interplay of commuting, work and leisure, including whether people are preoccupied with other activities or actively using Twitter. Differences between weekday and weekend dynamics point to changes in when people wake and sleep, and engage in social activities. We show that by measuring the average distances to a central location one can quantify the weekly differences and the shift in behavior during weekends. We also identify locations and times of high Twitter activity that occur because of specific activities. These include early morning high levels of traffic as people arrive and wait at air transportation hubs, and on Sunday at the Meadowlands Sports Complex and Statue of Liberty. We analyze the role of particular individuals where they have large impacts on overall Twitter activity. Our analysis points to the opportunity to develop insight into both geographic social dynamics and attention through social media analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-287
Number of pages8
JournalComplexity
Volume21
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 1
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Twitter
  • collective dynamics
  • human mobility patterns
  • social media analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • General

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  • Cite this

    França, U., Sayama, H., Mcswiggen, C., Daneshvar, R., & Bar-Yam, Y. (2016). Visualizing the “heartbeat” of a city with tweets. Complexity, 21(6), 280-287. https://doi.org/10.1002/cplx.21687