Why the Geography of Twitter Isn't So Revolutionary After All

Much has been made about the democratizing and geographic obliterating effects of Twitter, however new research shows how parochial Twitter's paths of communication actually are.
February 26, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Speaking with host Steve Inskeep on NPR's Morning Edition program, Shankar Vedantam reports on new research on the pathways of tweets conducted by sociologist Barry Wellman at the University of Toronto. The results of his work, when mapped, look surprisingly similar to a map of airline hubs.

According to Vedantam, "the real world powerfully predicts what kind of connections we have in the virtual world. So if you are living in New York, you're much more likely to have followers in London than you are likely to have followers in a small town in the United States....There's a lot of people who have similar kinds of professions or similar interests who live in those kinds of cities. But this really calls into question the notion that Twitter is a truly democratic medium."

Vedantam concludes, "Tom Freedman wrote this book saying the world is flat, and what Wellman is basically finding is that, no, the world isn't flat. The world is actually very lumpy."

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Published on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 in NPR
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