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Visualizing the Occupy Movement

EJ Fox

published on March 27, 2012 in Data

This weekend in 7 cities across the world (including Oakland, Calif.), people hacked away at #OccupyData hackathons aimed at creating “data visualization for the 99%”. Data visualization is a natural fit for a movement that regularly chants about statistics (“We are the 99%!”), and we’re looking forward to seeing the products of those hackathons over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting data visualizations that will help you gain a better understanding of the movement, regardless of your politics.

First, an establishing shot: this beautiful map symbolically links Wall St. in New York to all 1300+ Occupy locations that sprung up in response to the original protest in Zucotti Park.

Here’s another, more stylized version of the same map:

Next, a visualization of “interventions” at a single OccupyBoston General Assembly, classified by perceived gender — an arguably irrelevant datapoint (click on the link above for a larger-size image):

However, the interest of discovering patterns through visualization is clearly evident, as we see point of process interruptions increase towards the end of the assembly. Is this because it is getting late and people are becoming tired and decreasingly tolerant of nonsense? Or is it because more contentious issues are pushed towards the end of the meeting? Seeing patterns like this can help us analyze our processes and perhaps readjust them for better success: the true power of data visualization.

The next graphic visualizes tweets during the last week of the encampment at Zucotti park, showing the volume of tweets over time, split by positive or negative mood, as well as the most relevant words (for the full image, click on the link above).

The baseline of the bar chart winds back and forth between day and night, a design choice that contributes to the beauty of this visualization, but severely obscures a true understanding of the data for the user. The dotted line shows the relation between positive/negative tweets, showing the ebb and flow of support from the Twitter zeitgeist. The combination of these various data stories is really great and allows a lot of context to be included. It’s an undeniably beautiful piece of data art, though it will likely take you a while to decode it.

This next map by J. R. Baldwin takes a unique look at the occupy movements, focusing on which supplies they uniquely requested most over Twitter, using the #needsoftheoccupiers hashtag.

It paints a unique picture of the personalities of the various occupations in very different geographic locations: insights you’d be challenged to gather any other way than data curation and visualization.

The last visualization looks at responses to the question “what are you trying to achieve with your participation”, using Many Eyes to visualize the depth of responses. You can drag words around to get a better understanding of the connections and detangle things. There is a clear consensus around strong links between ‘social’, ‘economic’, and ‘justice’ — helping visualize the complex issue of defining the motives of a movement that resists making single demands.

AchieveQ - All Responses Many Eyes

EJ is a staff designer at and a passionate Oakland Occupier. He recently developed Inequality in America, an interactive visualization of many of the issues at the core of the Occupy protests.