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Querying Social Media with NodeXL

Shalin Hai-Jew, Author

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Social Media and Geolocational Information

While many have noted that much of what happens in the world has a correlating overlap online, much of what happens online is also geolocate-able to the world. The data extracted from social media platforms may involve a so-called socio-spatial element.   

NodeXL captures vertex-related locational information.  In the Vertices worksheet, there is a column for the Time Zone UTC and one for named locations. (To access this, you will need to navigate to the work sheet...minimize the NodeXL graph pane, and scroll to the right. The vertex names are "frozen" in Excel and will be readable as the columns of data related to that vertex are viewed.)  These columns may be analyzed with tools in Excel; they may be exported and analyzed in other tools. They may be exported and mapped visually outside of NodeXL.  (There are lat-long columns in the Edges worksheet as well that may be populated with particular information from a particular social media platform.) 




Social media platforms and physical locations.  Several research papers have suggested that only about 1 – 1.5% of Twitter messages are labeled with geolocational information, and much of that data are “folk” data without any real precise way to locate the message.  Some who use apps on their mobile devices to describe locations do better, with GPS coordinates that are locatable to places on Planet Earth.  

Some images and videos enable the sharing of locational information through EXIF (exchangeable image file format) data, particularly those using cameras and mobile smart devices enabled for the capturing of locational information.  

Relating vertices to physical spaces.  Within NodeXL, there is a way to understand the location of user accounts in a network.  In the Dynamic Filters feature in the Graph Pane, there is the “Time Zone UTC Offset (in seconds) that can generally show the time zone of the active account (in relation to Coordinated Universal Time or the Greenwich Mean Time, in Greenwich, England), which can show the general regions where messaging is occurring. Below is an open-source Time Zones Map by TimeZonesBoy, who made the resource available on Wikipedia.  




Below is a screenshot of the Time Zone UTC Offset (seconds) in the Dynamic Filters feature of the Graph Pane.  




Again, it is important to understand that while time-space are fairly closely integrated, the extractable locational data from social media platforms tends to be sparse and sufficiently limited to make outsized claims.  

Google's Geocoding API

Developers who want to access Google's formidable mapping databases to transcode noisy place information to longitude-latitude data may access their geocoding application programming interface (API).  The API is rate-limited.  Please read the fine print before using. 

 
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