Occupy Video as Data: Visualizing Temporal Narratives

How do we make sense of specific events occurring during the Occupy movement through narratives emerging from social media over time?

When an NYPD office pepper sprays peaceful protestors, the event is immediately captured on camera phones with subsequent citizen responses on YouTube and Twitter and news broadcasts capturing conflicting narratives.

We are seeking to create a framework for analyzing video and social media feeds that help develop a rich timeline of events and inter-related media reporting and crowd-sourced responses.

Our team is exploring this approach using a single event like the Pepper Spraying of protestors by NYPD officer Tony Bologna or the eviction of protestors from Zucotti Park on November 15th, 2012 by examining news articles, YouTube videos (and related metadata), and Twitter feeds. The following key elements are being developed in parallel:

1. Manual search and curation of all relevant news articles and videos of the event composed on MediaThread

2. Extraction of metadata from all YouTube videos using google’s Gdata API and Phython programming.

3. Filtering and compilation of Twitter feeds from the day of the event using data from R-Shief showing whether the news originated on Twitter or migrated there from other sources (and which ones).

4. Visualization of all the inter-related events using timeline tools such as SIMILE

While mock-up examples are shown here, we have some working prototypes in development that we will share shortly.

Example Timeline Image from SIMILE Tool at MIT

About Nitin

Nitin Sawhney, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at The New School. His research, teaching and creative practice engages the critical role of technology, civic media, and artistic interventions in contested spaces. He examines social movements and crisis contexts, though forms of creative urban tactics, participatory research, performance and documentary film. Nitin previously taught at the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) and conducted research at the MIT Media Lab on networked collaboration for sustainable product design, ubiquitous computing and responsive media in urban spaces. At The New School he has conducted research on participatory data-driven activism through OccupyData Hackathons in New York City and facilitating DIY urbanism for civic action in neighborhoods of Moscow. Nitin established the Engage Media Lab at The New School for students to design and conduct participatory media-based learning and assessment with youth in New York City, and has previously conducted research with Palestinian youth in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Nitin completed the documentary film, Flying Paper, about the participatory culture of kite making and flying among children in Gaza, with support from National Geographic, which has been screened in dozens of international film festivals. He recently initiated and co-curated the Guatemala Después project, examining contemporary artistic practices through collaborative exhibitions held in New York City and Guatemala from April-July 2015. He is currently completing a new documentary film, Zona Intervenida, focusing on historic memory through site-specific performance interventions in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Website: http://www.NitinSawhney.org


  1. Twtter data strategy and implementation thus far: (24 March 2012)
    (update by Ulrich)

    What we (me and Christo) did was download the file of all tweets containing the hashtag #occupywallstreet from R-shif. We then filtered this huge file of tweets using mySQL as follows:
    -show only tweets containing the word zuccotti, and of these
    1) show the date and hour each tweet was made
    2) show the number of tweets per hour (and retweets per hour = tweets – 1)

    This can be seen in the doc in the dropbox called zuccottieviction_tweets_octnov.csv

    What we are showing and comparing using this data is:
    -how tweets increase and subside during the time of the zuccoti park eviction event
    -we can then compare this rise and fall with other media to see where the information originated
    -this data also allows us to see what type of tweet content created the most retweets and from which users did the most information activity (most retweets) originate. Again we can then compare this with the number of views, etc. on other media platforms so as to to see if twitter was an originator of information or a follower.

  2. Pingback: Hackathon 2 Roundup | Occupy Research

  3. Pingback: Occupy Video as Data presentation at NYU, 4/18 « #OccupyData NYC

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