[Air-L] Twitter, #iranelection, and a big database

Devin Gaffney dgaffney at bennington.edu
Mon Oct 19 17:03:56 PDT 2009

Dear AoIR’ers,

This is admittedly a longshot, but its worth a try. I have been a  
member on this list since only 2 months ago, and have loved finding a  
community of people that are as interested in studying the Internet  
and all its implications as much as I have been over the past few  
years. I am in my final year at Bennington College in beautiful  
Vermont, and I have quite an interesting project underway. I wanted to  
share it with you and also reach out to anybody else on this list they  
may be interested in working with me on this project. I have been  
studying how the Internet changes the dynamics of citizen activism,  
and have written papers on the 1997 Ottawa Land Mine Treaty and the  
1999 Seattle WTO protests. Recently, I’ve shifted specifically to the  
Middle East, studying the Kefaya movement in Egypt, the widespread use  
of blogs in general, and the proliferation of ICT’s in the region.
	So here it is: I have amassed about 750,000 tweets tied to 80,000 ish  
user accounts on Twitter, all with the #iranelection tag on the  
messages. I plan on creating a massive database of information and  
analytical tools so that people like us can empirically determine how  
something like the protests in Iran over the summer can spontaneously  
generate, and to what extent something like Twitter can augment or  
even shape conflicts like these. The paper will focus on studying  
major players on Twitter during the election, talk about the  
fascination or perhaps obsession with amateur information (a la “The  
Cult of the Amateur”) as was witnessed following the expulsion of  
“traditional” journalists, and certainly delve deep into the data, and  
provide some insights as to what this situation can teach us for the  
	At my school, we are given the opportunity to spend the months of  
January and February working in the field. In our final years, we can  
opt for an independent study, and so long as it is outlined properly  
and there are clear objectives, we are given a lot of latitude. I  
would love to work with anyone, basically anywhere, on forming the  
important questions, developing sections of the paper, and  
collaborating to create a meaningful piece with an incredible amount  
of data. If you’re at any university, if you have been working in the  
field for a while, or if you’re just interested, I would love to hear  
from you. I would love to find someone wiling to advise me on this  
independent study during the winter, and would be willing to basically  
do anything to make it work for you. Here’s the catch: paperwork is  
due on the 30th, so we’d have to move quick.
	This is a silly way to introduce myself to AoIR, and I apologize if  
this is all presumptuous and the sort of crap some young 20-something  
would say to a whole bunch of people with much more experience. I am  
just enthusiastic about all this, and hope I find other that are  
interested in this project. Let me know. Also, I’m going to keep  
building this database, hopefully past the million tweet mark, and try  
to completely reconstruct the Twitter storm if possible. If you want  
the data, you just let me know, and I'm more than happy to collaborate.

Thank you very much if you’ve read this far,

Devin Gaffney
1 College Drive
Bennington, VT

C: (503)-319-2931
E: DGaffney at Bennington.edu

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