middle yeasty

So named because this is all coming from a back log of stuff I haven’t had time to blog about.

First up: Visualizing the Twitter influence network in Egypt.

The map is arranged to place individuals near the individuals they influence, and factions near the factions they influence. The color is based on the language they tweet in — a choice that itself can be meaningful, and clearly separates different strata of society.
Many fascinating structures can be seen. Wael Ghonim, a pivotal figure in this self-organzing system who instigated the initial protests on January 25th, is prominently located near the bottom of the network, straddling two factions as well as two languages. The size of his node reflects his influence on the entire network.
The lump on the left is dominated by journalists, NGO and foreign policy types; it seems nearly gafted on, and goes through an intermediary buffer layer before making contact with the true Egyptian activists on the ground. However, this process of translation and aggregation is key; it is how those in Egypt are finally getting a voice in Western society, and an insurance policy against regime violence. Many of the prominent nodes in this network were at some point arrested, but their deep connectivity help ensure they were not “dissapeared”.
Next up: The Economist produces an “Index of Unrest” which should give mobilization scholars something to argue about for weeks, if not longer:
Some factors are hard to put a number on and are therefore discounted. For instance, dissent is harder in countries with a very repressive secret police (like Libya). The data on unemployment were too spotty to be comparable and so this important factor is discounted too. We took out the Comoros and Djibouti, which do not have a great deal in common with the rest of the group, and removed the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Somalia for lack of data. The chart below is the result of ascribing a weighting of 35% for the share of the population that is under 25; 15% for the number of years the government has been in power; 15% for both corruption and lack of democracy as measured by existing indices; 10% for GDP per person; 5% for an index of censorship and 5% for the absolute number of people younger than 25. Jordan comes out surprisingly low on the chart, which suggests the weighting might need to be tweaked.
Next: Good friend Phil Howard has been writing a lot of great stuff on the Egypt and Tunisian cases (and becoming an increasingly popular “talking head” on the news). Here’s a recent piece from the Reuters blog. His argument?:
The West has a significant opportunity to help people across these regions enshrine the democratic norms we value and they seek. America should issue the right kinds of rhetorical and practical support, such as working hard to keep the Internet infrastructure open and publicly accessible. Taking advantage of this opportunity means understanding the ingredients for democratization — especially digital media.
Finally, Robert Kaplan on “Why I Love Al Jazeera” which, as a friend wrote to me today, may be one of the subtler stories from this spring. As far as I can tell, American viewers’ interest in the news channel has never been as high, and it’s “Demand Al Jazeera” campaign may be successful in getting non-satellite domestic cable providers to add the channel to their line-up. There’s a lot in the argument with which I agree, including the following:

The fact that Doha, Qatar’s capital, is not the headquarters of a great power liberates Al Jazeera to focus equally on the four corners of the Earth rather than on just the flash points of any imperial or post-imperial interest. Outlets such as CNN and the BBC don’t cover foreign news so much as they cover the foreign extensions of Washington’s or London’s collective obsessions. And Al Jazeera, rather than spotlighting people who are loaded with credentials but often have little to say, has the knack of getting people on air who have interesting things to say, like the brilliant, no-name Russian analyst I heard explaining why both Russia and China need the current North Korean regime because it provides a buffer state against free and democratic South Korea.

Al Jazeera is also endearing because it exudes hustle. It constantly gets scoops. It has had gritty, hands-on coverage across the greater Middle East, from Gaza to Beirut to Iraq, that other channels haven’t matched.
Put “al jazeera english” into your google/bing/etc. search box and choose the “watch it live” option. I also heartily recommend the “Empire” program, which appears to be available in an on-line archive.
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2 Comments

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2 responses to “middle yeasty

  1. Mark P.

    You might have also come across some very cool visualizations (that come with a neat story) using Gephi. From their blog, André Pannison’s collaborative work: http://gephi.org/2011/the-egyptian-revolution-on-twitter/

  2. Jenn Lena

    So awesome Mark. Have you bumped into any analysis of Libya?

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