Sunday, 27 February 2011

Madison, showing the limits of Internet based analysis

Today we are seeing a elevation in tweeting near the Madison state Capitol. Higher than anywhere else in the city for a weekend but not that hight for Madison. During the week it is not unusual to see scores near 50 in Madison on our scale. Today scores are moving up and down from between 15 and 30. Our analysis of the Madison hashtag in Twitter have also shown minutes between posts.

Given that this is the United States we have been assuming that a significant standoff between protesters and government authority was not likely. But is seems form the news that this might be happening.

The reasons for the minor level of tweeting from Madison, which we anticipate for a large protest, and the news we are getting could be one of the following reasons:

  • The Madison protests may not be as large as the media is reporting. The main media outlets may be pushing the story of unrest and revolt and it might not be appropriate for what is happening in Madison;
  • Union members in Wisconsin may be late technology adopters. This seems very likely, though we would suspect that in a place like Madison with a major very left wing University there would be a large population of students who would be digital natives. We have assumed all along that protests would involve higher than normal twitter levels.
  • The area may be empty except for the protests right now. The protesters could be tweeting at elevated levels, they are just doing it in a part of downtown Madison which empties out on the weekend. American cities very often have centers which become ghost towns on the weekends.
  • We did see the surge before today at the end of yesterday protest. Yesterday we saw a large surge of tweets after the rally finished off. Perhaps these were a sudden burst of commitment and planning for a show down today.
Still based upon Web 3.0 analysis we see no reason to predict a major show down in Madison. But we have reason to doubt the effectiveness of Web 3.0 analysis for this population and have decided it will be best to hold off on predictions on Wisconsin until we have a larger data set about older protests. Our initial review in the Arab world have involved protests with large numbers of young people for whom digital media is media. Unions have already existing forms of organization.

We have been reading the following articles for insight, not surprising they come from the UK

Guardian UK: Wisconsin is making the battle lines clear in America's hidden class war

Guardian UK: Wisconsin and the limits of web power

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