There is a lot of noise out there about social media. Not only has social media’s use exploded over the last several years but it continues to generate interest at increasing rates, attracting the attention of landscape architects and related design professionals in the process. Many landscape architecture firms now connect and communicate through social media’s different variants, including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, to name a few.
Recent global events, like the use of Facebook in the uprisings in the Middle East, have focused attention on the changes in public space and social politics prompted by the explosion in the use of social media. Some pundits see it as a new form of voluntary association and pluralism, while others see it as a force for greater consumption, or, worse, a means of social surveillance. What is often not evident in the broader discourse of social media is a description of the location of those engaged in its use. Crowdsourcing is a way to identify the geography of social media and offers great promise in further understanding the complex networked connections within the field of landscape architecture.
The remainder of my blog post introduces the results of crowdsourcing professional social media followers of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), related organizations like the American Planning Association (APA), and landscape architecture and architecture news sites like World Landscape Architect, Architectural Record, and Architizer. Hopefully, some interesting ideas came out of analyzing the location of their twitter followers at national and also global scales.
The charts seen at top (view large version here) graphically illustrate the kinds of networks these organizations have formed, the location of their most influential users, as well as the location of all users. In examining these charts, one can see just how different the various professional organizations and news sites are in terms of their numbers, their dispersal, how intensely they communicate, and their national and global reach.
Specifically, the graphs on the left (featured below) show the conceptual forms of each network. In these graphs, the larger the circle the greater the influence of a member. The closer the circles to the center, the greater the interconnection among the most influential participants and all network followers. The greener the circle and line the more frequent the communication between network followers.
If we compare the APA network graph with the ASLA network graph, the APA followers appear less densely connected and more connected to one center. Many APA followers are tenuously inter-connected on the periphery of the network. Most of the APA’s influential followers are on the network edge and not well interconnected with its followers. The ASLA network, on the other hand, is very dense, with many followers inter-connected throughout the network. Many of the ASLA’s influential followers are well-connected to the larger network from positions close to its conceptual center. The ASLA also seems to have many more followers than the APA in this study.
The graphs on the right (featured for a closer view below) illustrate the national and global location of the network followers and their lines of connection. The most influential followers are indicated by larger-sized circles. In these graphs, the larger, the bluer and greener the circles, the greater the influence and communication frequency of the participant. The greater the change in the lines from red to yellow to green, the greater the frequency of communication between followers.
The national geo-location graphs on the left shows that the APA (the first row) has the most influential followers on the east coast and in Toronto and Texas, with significant traffic from several west coast cities. At a global scale, the APA followers showed fewer connections spread through most continents.
National ASLA followers (the 2nd row) are present throughout the United States and in Canada and Mexico in substantial numbers. Many moderately influential followers with multiple lines of communication are evident throughout the United States. At a global scale, the ASLA followers showed many connections spread through most continents, but concentrated in Europe and East Asia. There were also several influential ASLA nodes in Central Europe.
In extending this comparison to all five design-focused social networks, we see greater variation in the level of connectivity, the number of members with influence, how much they communicate with each other, and the range of their international followers. Some are clearly more uni-centric while others are more multi-centric. All of the networks connect to the urbanized continents, but most connections are in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Nationally, some of the networks are more concentrated around New York City, the northeast, and the southern and central United States.
An analysis closely related to a network analysis like this would explore the extent to which the twitter followers of the five design-focused social networks cover different topics. Analysis of the content of their communications is quite possible, as is the location of their messages. One can imagine understanding how landscape architecture ideas are nested in a particular place, how those places and messages inter-connect, and how followers from different places influence followers from another place. Perhaps in another blog post.
Robert Hewitt, ASLA, is an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Clemson University. He is the author of Landscape Imprints: Culture, History, Sustainability, Technology, and Learning.
Image credit: Geoff Taylor and Brooks Patrick