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

Elizabeth Stark elizabeth.stark at yale.edu
Tue Oct 20 07:35:22 PDT 2009

Several of my colleagues compiled a related report at



On Mon, Oct 19, 2009 at 8:03 PM, Devin Gaffney <dgaffney at bennington.edu>wrote:

> 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 future.
>        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
> 05201
> C: (503)-319-2931
> E: DGaffney at Bennington.edu
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