US-based study unveils a global communication network using Twitter data

Using Twitter mentions, a team of researchers at the American Institute of Physics evinced a communication network of the social media site on a global scale. The findings were released in the peer-reviewed journal Chaos.

“In this paper, we study the geographical structure of the Twitter communication network at the global scale,” according to the findings.

“We find a complex structure where self-organized patches with clear cultural, historical, and administrative boundaries are manifested and first-world economies centralize information flows. These patches unveil world regions that are socially closer to each other with direct implications for processes of collective learning and identity creation.”

For the study, the US-based research team utilized Twitter mentions in their wealth of data to map the flow of information worldwide. Mentions on the social networking platform are the result of the inclusion of a tagged username within a tweet. The subsequent inclusion of another user is a direct form of communication.

In the data, conducted from late-2013, researchers divided it into 8,000 cells, measuring nearly 100 kilometers wide.

“A network was built on this lattice, where each node is a precise location and a link, or edge, is the number of Twitter users in one location who are mentioned in another location,” the co-authors wrote in a news release.

Based on their findings, researchers determined the following: “We found that the global network of Twitter communications shows that administrative borders determine the structure of strong and weak social ties, which are reflected in the emergence of clearly defined geographic fragmentation at multiple scales.”

The co-authors also added: “Such fragmentation implies a highly heterogeneous flow of information across the globe, with direct implications for how people learn from one another and consequently behave.”

“According to the Twitter mentions network, Europe and the USA centralize the global flow of information. Our results show that the historical colonial hierarchy is still present in the online world, and there is a significant correlation between country relationships in Twitter communication and trade networks.”

The study, titled Geographical fragmentation of the global network of Twitter communications, was led by Leila Hedayatifar, and her fellow colleagues, Alfredo J. Morales and Yaneer Bar-Yam.

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