Part 1: Tool Report
Trendsmap: Managing Evolving Electronic Discourse
Communication technology is perpetually advancing. New possibilities are constantly being created or discovered by both manufacturers and users of innovative technologies. Recently, the introduction and subsequent widespread utilization of online social media and micro blogging services has allowed innumerable individuals to engage in topical discourse online. The nature of this discourse is always evolving. According to Dr. Michelle Zappavigna, an expert in the fields of micro blogging and linguistics, “we are currently witnessing a cultural shift in electronic discourse from online conversation to such ‘searchable talk”. (Zappavigna, 2011) This discourse associated with “searchable content” refers to the dissemination and discussion of information through Tweets which are affiliated through metadata tags such as hashtags. The vast amount of information available on social media sites can be highly beneficial to media professionals who are interested in the opinions of ordinary individuals or the sentiment of the masses. However, the extraordinary complexity of current social media discourse can be overwhelming. Consequently, social media tools were developed to assist in the management and analysis of social media content. One such tool is Trendsmap.
Trendsmap: General Information:
Developed in 2009 by BugMeNot and PDFMeNot, Trendsmap is an online application which provides a visual representation of the most commonly tweeted words and phrases in varying locations across the globe. It does so by detecting and analysing “a large volume of tweets and various algorithms to determine what is trending for a given location” (Trends Map: About, 2011) and then displaying trending words and phrases in their appropriate locations on an online map of the globe. For further information regarding each of the currently trending topics, the user need only select one of the words or phrases on the map. More specifically: “Clicking on any of the [words], opens a small info box that aggregates the latest tweets, local and global seven-day histories of that trend’s popularity, as well as some top-related news links that change depending on what’s trending.” (Lowensohn, J., 2009)
Alas, Trendsmap is not without its weaknesses. In order to display everything that’s trending topics simultaneously, the trending topics must be spread across the map to prevent words overlapping or interfering with each other. Although this is positive in the sense that it allows the user to read and select particular trending topics more easily, it also means that some topics must be shifted from their accurate geographic position. Also, sometimes Twitter uses give incorrect location information when Tweeting. This fools Trendsmap analysing methods and causes some Tweets to be ascribed incorrect locations. Furthermore, generally speaking the trending topics determined by Trendsmap are not necessarily in any way interesting or newsworthy. Trendsmap is indiscriminate in its detection of Tweets. Often vulgar words or nonsensical humorous phrases are shown to be popular in various regions of the world.
Overall, Trendsmap is a tool which could be utilized by media professionals to gain a better understanding of current trends and individuals sentiment regarding those trends. Micro blogging analyst Anders Olof Larrson stated that “Use of blogs for social and political purposes has been studied [to reveal] the point of view of the citizen.” (Larrson, A., and Moe, H., 2011) Knowing what is relevant online could assist a media professional in writing relevant articles that relate to the masses, particularly the youth.
The following links provide more information regarding the functions of Trendsmap:
Trendsmap Intro (Trendsmap, 2009)
A short video introduction to the features of Trendsmap.
Trendsmap Proves Scary Twitter Censorship Occupy Wall Street Trending Topics (Higgins, A., 2011)
This article provides a brief description of how Trendsmap works and how it reveals North American online censorship of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Trendsmap Shows What’s Happening Where On Twitter (Duvander, A., 2009)
This site describes the function and intended purpose of Trendsmap whilst comparing the application to other “mash ups”.
Trendsmap Twitter Trends in Real-Time (Lowensohn, J., 2009)
This site provides background information on the creation and development of the application as well its features and functions.
Twitter Trends + Google Maps = Awesome (Parr, B. 2009)
This site gives a brief, highly positive description of the function and significance of Trendsmap.
Why I Love Trendsmap.com And You Should Too (LaMothe, B., 2009)
This article briefly discusses how to use Trendsmap, how it works and why it is beneficial.
How to Use Trendsmap:
Essentially, Trendsmap is very simply to use. It is accessible online for free at Trendsmap.com. When accessed, the user will see a map of the world covered in what is commonly referred to as “tag clouds.” These tag clouds represent the trending topics in varied geographical regions.
Once opened one may navigate about the map in order to discover trending topics in geographical regions of interest. This is done using the navigating tools in the top left hand side of the screen.
Once you have found a location and an associated trending topic of interest, you need only click on the trending word in order to gain further information in the topic. When you have clicked on the word, a window will open, in which recent tweets relating to the subject you have selected will be displayed.
In following these steps, one can effectively discover which particular topics are trending in various locations across the globe as well as gain insight into general perceptions and opinions regarding these topics on the social media network Twitter.
Trendsmap: Affordances and Constraints
Communicative practices vary considerably as the result of their continually evolving technological context. As discussed previously (in the introduction) we are currently experiencing a shift in the nature of electronic discourse as a result of the widespread utilization of Social Media networks. Ambient affiliation (as defined by Dr. Michelle Zappavigna) of micro blogging has allowed for a flourishing, all-inclusive online discourse regarding ever-changing topical events. In a recent article Liza Potts stated the following on the subject: “Social media has become a popular and useful tool for managing and engaging the deluge of information and networks that participants encounter on the Web as they collaboratively annotate the entire world.’’ (Potts, L., and Jones, D., 2011) This beautifully summarizes the role that social media networks play in accommodating the new electronic discourse. A key phrase in this quote is “deluge of information”. The term deluge is an appropriate label for the incomprehensibly broad reservoir of information that is available online. For some, the social media networks themselves are not enough to manage such a vast torrent of information. This is why we have social media management tools, such as Trendsmap, affording easier management and analysis of Social Media communication.
So what exactly is meant by an affordance? According to Donald A. Norman, one of the individuals responsible for defining and popularizing the terms affordances and constraints, affordances “refer to actionable properties between the world and an actor.” (Norman D. A., 1999) Affordances exist between an actor and a given tool or environment regardless of whether the actor perceives them to exist. In this case the tool being discussed is Trendsmap.com and its user is the actor. With regards to software, e.g. Trendsmap, the specific affordances are “The functions that are invokable by the user…[including] text-editing [or] searching”. (Ho and McGrenere, 2000)The usefulness of Trendsmap refers to the potential beneficial action possibilities that the tool affords. Usefulness is independent of the user’s recognition of the affordances of a tool and is associated with technical affordances and constraints. Conversely, usability refers to the perceived uses of a tool and is associated with purposive affordances and constraints.
Technical and purposive affordances here will be discussed with respect to software technology. Technical affordances and constraints refer to what a tool physically allows you to do or limits you from doing. They can be both design-preferred or design dispreferred. That is to say they can be what the designers of the tool want to be possible, and what designers do not want to be possible. They can also be design dependant or design independent. That is to say they can occur within or outside of the application/tool/service. Purposive affordances on the other hand refer to the action possibilities that the tool was intended for when it was created. These may include how the program in question is related to social or cultural practices (such as online electronic discourse).
Now that the definitions of affordances have been established, I will be discussing the affordances and constraints of Trendsmap and how they are relevant to a 21st century media professional. Generally speaking, I will be focusing on the usability of the program. Therefore its purposive affordances and constraints will be primarily discussed. Also, I will be usually speaking in terms of nested affordances, all of which require the exploitation and recognition of more simple affordances, such as clicking, scrolling and typing, in order to be achieved. Therefore its purposive affordances and constraints will be primarily discussed.
Essentially, Trendsmap clearly communicates information regarding trending issues and their geographic location. It does so by firstly affording the access and navigation of an online world map which clearly displays a variety of trending topics and secondly, affording viewing of a constantly updating list of Tweets relevant to these trending topics. Moreover, Trendsmap also has a search bar, which affords the ability to search for specific trending topics across the entirety of the globe. These are purposive, design preferred/dependant affordances that could benefit any individual interested in learning more about current online trends and sentiment.
So how exactly are these affordances relevant to 21st century media professionals? Well, it is beneficial for a media professional to be familiar with current trends in order to write articles which are both relevant and appealing to the masses. On this subject Diana Reinstra wrote: “With social media [allowing] more [people]…to access, create and distribute information,…social networking websites are increasingly being assessed by [journalists]…seeking to gain awareness of public opinions.” (Reinstra, D., 2011) In fact, recently many journalists have become particularly dependant on electronic networks and social media sites for the distribution of their articles. Online journalist Carolyn Cohn stated that: “Nowadays, there are many journalists who no longer work with traditional print journalism at all…the dissemination has changed dramatically. Because of the expansive capabilities of social media, journalists can offer all sorts of new opportunities to their readers” (Cohn, C., 2011) For these internet based journalists, it is particularly crucial to understand trending on social media as it gives an indication of the attitude of their audience.
Lastly, Trendsmap affords the ability to acquire quotes from regular individuals which reflect the sentiment of the masses. This is helpful to those media professionals who wish to support a claim regarding the general perspective of the masses in an article.
The Constraints of Trendsmap
A constraint is an action impossibility. It is any action that a tool or environment cannot afford. Like all things, Trendsmap is not without its constraints. Perhaps the most obvious of these constraints is the fact that Trendsmap is completely indiscriminate in its detection of trending topics. Often, it is shown that obscene or humorous but nonsensical words and phrases are trending. In reality, a high percentage of that which is shown to be trending is likely completely useless to a media professional who is attempting to write a serious media article on a topical issue. It cannot show the precise level of popularity of Trends either. Although it does have mechanisms which approximately indicate the popularity of certain posts, it does not afford the ability to view the precise statistics regarding the posts.
The tweets that are displayed by Trendsmap once one has selected a trending topic are organized by recentness. They may not be linked in any way except that they contain the trending word or phrase. This means that many of the Tweets displayed may not be overly useful to a media professional as they are uninspired, uninteresting or simply unpleasant.
A last constraint of Trendsmap is its occasional inability to properly locate or display where a Tweet, or a user of Twitter is located. In some instances the information that it uses to detect where you are, or where a tweet is from may be incorrect. Other times it may know precisely where a Tweet was posted, but it may not be capable of accurately displaying that Tweet in its proper geographic location on the map. While topics are organised around a location, in order to display them sometimes they will appear to be some distance away, or sometimes the location users give twitter isn’t accurate, or they may be tweeting from another location and forgot to update their profile. The Trendsmap ABOUT FAQ page addresses this constraint. It states: “While topics are organised around a location, in order to display them sometimes they will appear to be some distance away, or sometimes the location users give twitter isn’t accurate, or they may be tweeting from another location and forgot to update their profile.
Trendsmap in Practice:
For a clearer understanding of the benefits of Trendsmap, here are some examples of practical applications of the tool.
The following article: “Michelle Obama wow social media, TV audience steady” essentially discussed the overwhelming positive reaction to Mrs. Obama’s recent speech on social media networks, particularly Twitter. This article is an example of the benefits the use of Trendsmap could potentially have. It read: “Reaction to Michelle Obama’s speech was off the charts, and Twitter was packed with messages wondering (and hoping) whether she would one day run for the highest office in the land herself.” (Serjeant, J., 2012) This article utilized a number of social media analytic tools to produce and corroborate the information that it provided. Trendsmap was utilized effectively by the author of this article to track hashtags relating to this incident that were trending shortly after the speech was made. This is evident as follows: “Twitter hashtags #michelleobama and #firstlady were among the top five trending topics on Tuesday night.” (Serjeant, J., 2012) The article also used the program to acquire quotable Tweets such as the following which is included in the article “Screw it, make Michelle Obama the president of the whole damn world.” (Robert, D., in Serjeant, J., 2012)
Another article entitled “Michelle Obama Media Reactions Pundits Swoon over DNC Speech:” also focused on reactions to Michelle Obama’s speech. However, this article did not utilize Trendsmap in its coverage of the story. This article gave a general coverage of the positive media reaction to Michelle Obama’s speech. In order to illustrate the reaction of the masses, the author used quotes from prominent journalists and politicians. Although these quotes were appropriate in theme and effectively incorporated into the article, they were not overly credible as reflections of general opinion. Trendsmap could have been beneficial in this instance in that it could have been used to produce statistics showing online trends regarding the popularity of Michelle Obama. It could also have been used to gather corroborative quotable Tweets. The inclusion of these Tweets and statistics could potentially have made the article more reliable or relatable to regular readers.
Summary Matrix Table
This table provides a generally summary of the usefulness of Trendsmap with regards to a variety of tasks involved in the research and presentation of an article.
|Research/ Presentation Tasks||Pros||Cons|
|Selecting A Topic|
|Relevance and Newsworthiness||Trendsmap is useful in that it gives the user an idea of what is currently relevant.|
|Angle or Agenda||Trendsmap is, to some extent, useful in that it gives an idea of what other people’s angles or agendas are. These may influence your angle.||
|Availability of Sources||Trendsmap is useful in that it makes many Tweets available as sources for research.||Trendsmap is not particularly useful for acquiring a broad range of sources. Only Tweets can be acquired.|
|Defining the Article||One could easily define the subject of their article using the many currently trending topics on Trendsmap.|
|Interviews||Trendsmap does not assist in the organization of useful interviews.|
|Anecdotes||People often post anecdotes on Twitter. Some may be useful to your piece.|
|Documents||Trendsmap only deals with Tweets not pre-written scholarly or non-scholarly documents.|
|Visual Sources (Videos/Photos)||Tweets cannot include videos or photographs. Therefore Trendsmap cannot provide access to any.|
|Audio||Tweets cannot include audio. Therefore Trendsmap cannot provide access to any.|
|Reliability of Sources||Trendsmap cannot guarantee the acquirement or assist in the analysis of reliable sources.|
|Quantity and Relevance of Data||A vast quantity of relevant data could be gathered over Trendsmap. It could also help to determine whether data gathered from other places is relevant.|
|Writing the Article|
|Formatting||Trendsmap cannot assist the in the formatting of an article.|
|Structure (Inverted Pyramid)||Trendsmap can not assist in the structuring of an article.|
|Grammar and Spelling||Trendsmap cannot assist an individual with their grammar and spelling.|
|Fluency||Trendsmap cannot improve the fluency of an article.|
|Designing Layout||Trendsmap cannot assist with designing the layout of an article.|
|Audience Reach and Prevalence||Trendsmap cannot promote or increase the prevalence of an article. (Unless it is already trending)|
|Accessibility||Trendsmap cannot make an article anymore accessible.|
Potts, L., and Jones, D., Contextualizing Experiences: Tracing the Relationships Between People and Technologies in the Social Web, “Journal of Business and Technical Communication” (2011), Sage, retrieved from: http://jbt.sagepub.com/content/25/3/338.full.pdf+html
Trendsmap, ABOUT FAQ, retrieved from: http://trendsmap.com/about-faq
Larrson, A. O., and Moe, H., Studying political micro blogging: Twitter users in the 2010 Swedish election campaign, “New Media and Society” (2011), Sage, retrieved from: http://nms.sagepub.com/content/14/5/729.full.pdf+html
Norman, D. A., Affordance, Conventions and Design, (1999), Nielson Norman, retrieved from: https://blackboard.elearning.uq.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-2358090-dt-content-rid-1035071_1/courses/JOUR2722S_6260STx/p38-norman.pdf
Cohn, C., The Coupling of Social Media and Journalism, (2011), Biznik, retrieved from: http://biznik.com/articles/the-coupling-of-social-media-and-journalism
Serjeant, J., Michelle Obama wows social media, TV audience steady, (2012), Reuters, retrieved from: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/05/usa-campaign-media-idINL2E8K59E020120905
Radwanski, A., Obama’s Democrats wrap their in stars and stripes at DNC, (2012), The Globe and Mail, retrieved from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-election/us-election-blog/obamas-democrats-wrap-their-message-in-stars-and-stripes-at-dnc/article4525871/
Espo, D., Bill Clinton DNC Speech Commands Spotlight On Wednesday Night, (2012) The Huffington Post, Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/bill-clinton-dnc-speech_n_1859839.html?1346899003/
Mozgovoya, N., Obama at DNC: Americans face a choice between competing visions for the U.S. (2012) retrieved from: http://www.haaretz.com/news/u-s-elections-2012/obama-at-dnc-americans-face-a-choice-between-competing-visions-for-the-u-s.premium-1.463363
Higgins, A., Trendsmap Proves Scary Twitter Censorship Occupy Wall Street Trending Topics (2011) retrieved from: http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/2011/09/29/trendsmap-proves-scary-twitter-censorship-occupywallstreet-trending-topics-72701/
Duvander, A., Trendsmap Shows What’s Happening Where On Twitter (2009), retrieved from: http://blog.programmableweb.com/2009/09/23/trendsmap-shows-whats-happening-where-on-twitter/
Lowensohn, J., Trendsmap Twitter Trends in Real-Time (2009), retrieved from: http://news.cnet.com/8301-27076_3-10357898-248.html
Parr, B., Twitter Trends + Google Maps = Awesome (2009, Mashable, retrieved from: http://mashable.com/2009/09/22/trendsmap/
LaMothe, B., Why I Love Trendsmap.com And You Should Too, (2009), retrieved from: http://econsultancy.com/au/blog/4685-why-i-love-trendsmap-com-and-you-should-too
Part 2: Story:
Trendsmap was used to research/choose a topic for this article.
Obama’s Online Popularity Skyrockets After DNC
The recent Democratic National Convention (DNC) has seen Obama’s popularity skyrocket. At the convention, a number of democrats, including Barack and Michelle Obama, delivered speeches in a bid to increase Obama’s popularity for the forthcoming election. The reception of these speeches, and the DNC in general, was extraordinarily favourable as evidenced by online trending and discussion.
Ultimately, the Democrats recognized the DNC as an appropriate spectacle for propaganda. The entire convention had an intensely patriotic and positive outlook on the American future, a trait that is generally more closely associated with the Republicans. Flags were distributed amongst the crowd, chants of “USA!” were common and tributes to American troops overseas were regular. Moreover, speakers constantly criticized the pessimism of the Republicans, promoting optimism and faith in the country. According to Adam Radwanski “It all added up to a fairly straightforward message…Democrats are now the ones who speak for the heartland, while Republicans would rather just sit around doubting and criticizing.” (Radwanski, A., 2012)
This patriotic, optimistic atmosphere was not the only well-received aspect of the convention. Several of the speeches saw wildly positive reactions on social forums. One such speech in particular was that made by Michelle Obama who made several speeches throughout the duration of the convention. However, her first speech, during the opening session of the convention was met with an overwhelming positive response. Many noted the passion and eloquence with which the speech was delivered as being extremely compelling. According to Trendsmap.com the tags #Michelle, #MichelleObama and #The First Lady were extremely prominent in numerous cities acrossAmerica. Overall, her speech has had extremely positive implications for Obama and public perception of the Democratic Party in general. The following Tweet, taken from regular Twitter use Mae Lil, epitomizes the general online sentiment towards Michelle and Barack Obama: “I believe in this man #BarackObama He gives the people confidence. He encourages us to speak up and be powerhouses like his wife #MichelleObama.” (Lil, M., 2012)
Other important moments included a powerful speech by Julian Castro and a controversial discourse by Mitt Romney. However, it was a speech from former president Bill Clinton, who continued to hail Barack Obama as the best candidate for presidency, which really captured the audience. He stated: “If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility – a we’re-all-in-this-together society – you should vote for Barack Obama.” (Clinton, B., in Espo, D., 2012) Like Michelle Obama’s speech,Clinton’s was met with unanimous approval on Twitter and has given people more confidence in Obama. Trendsmap showed that words such as #Clinton, @Clinton were trending heavily across the United States and even in other continents in the days following the speech. Trendsmap also showed that Tweets such as the following were common in Twitter feeds after the event. “I thought the DNC convention was great- especially the speech by our President & Clinton…I believe in President Obama.” (Munn, O., 2012)
After several days of extravagant patriotism, the convention was finally brought to a close by Barack Obama who delivered a final speech. In congruency with the apparent overall theme of the convention, Obama stated that citizens would have to make a decision as to whether they adopt the negative, pessimistic vision of America presented by the Republicans or the positive, optimistic vision presented by the democrats. Despite his popularity, Obama did not manage to induce the same uproarious response as some earlier speakers. Natasha Mozgovoya described the speech as follows: “Obama never seemed to connect with the crowd the way former President Bill Clinton did the previous night. But, earnestly, and without much fanfare, he did state a case as to why he would be the better choice to lead the nation in the next four years” (Mozgovoya, N., 2012) According to Trendsmap and online statistical polls, the online response to Obama’s speech was record breaking. Many thousands of posts related to the DNC and Obama’s closing speech were posted. According to investigative journalist Dewey Coldewey “At the end of President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night, there were 52,756 tweets posted per minute…— which Twitter said was a new record for political moments.” Trendsmap showed that the tag #DNC2012 was posted extraordinarily regularly following the speech.