Friday, April 27, 2012

Viz: trayvon's spread across the us in social media

bitly blog

On February 26th, Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford, FL. Martin, 17, was walking home after purchasing a snack from a local convenience store. 

Recently, Bitly collaborated with Bloomberg Businessweek on a visualization showing how the media’s coverage of the shooting went from local to national. We explored how various responses to the event (the release of the 911 tapes, President Obama’s public comments) caused spikes in traffic to online articles related to Trayvon.


In mid-April Bill Cosby commented that debate of the shooting should not focus on the role race played, but on the role of guns. Using Bitly data we explored how race was correlated with attention paid to the Martin event. US Census data provided the percentage of African-Americans for each state. We plotted these percentages against the attention each state gave to the event from February 26 through April 21. 

We utilized linear regression to model the data. The resulting line had an R-Square value of 0.86. The greatest outlier was the state of Florida (which is reasonable given the local nature of the story). As you can see from the graph, there is a direct correlation between the racial makeup of a state and the amount of attention that state has paid to the story. While Mr. Cosby may want the story to be focused on guns, the data shows that race has been the focus.

We studied this particular story because of the media impact and because we are investigating how stories and ideas spread through social media. We would love to hear your thoughts and questions!

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