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Mapping the 'geography' of the Internet

By The Atlantic

September 17, 2013

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Morningside Analytics chief scientist John Kelly maps the Internet's "cybersocial geography" to visualize topics of conversation and the participants involved in them. Kelly's data demonstrate which people are influential in niche communities and illuminate trends about communication on the public Internet.

In the maps, each dot represents a Twitter account and the dot's size shows how many people are following that account. The proximity of the dots to one another illustrates the extent to which users are following the same issues, with colors used to represent statistically similar Web surfing habits.

Social media users with common interests tend to form walled-off communities that focus on particular topics, rarely interacting with users who have other interests or opinions. Traditional sources of influence, such as large companies and news outlets, have become embedded in online niche communities, indicating that they are actively pursuing and engaging with niche digital audiences; this allows companies to integrate marketing efforts into consumers' daily lives.

Kelly notes that the lack of communication among different niche groups that might be interested in overlapping issues, such as car lovers and environmental groups, eliminates an opportunity to make real progress on issues such as gas consumption, car exhaust pollution, and road and highway development.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA

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