The Creators Project: Interactive Sculpture Visualizes Olympic Twitter Sentiment

A physical data sculpture of 17 CNC-milled plates showcases the sentiment attached with the 12.5 million tweets.

The London 2012 Olympics captivated the world’s attention for several weeks this summer, and no place was our collective obsession with the Games more prevalent than on Twitter, the world’s water cooler. Whether it was weighing in on victories, rivalries, upsets, rising stars, or spotty sports coverage, Twitter was constantly ablaze with a slew of opinions, both good and bad, all of which were captured and analyzed in real time by the emoto project.

Emoto, which we originally covered back in August, is a data-visualization project that tracked the public’s emotional response to the Olympic games, as they were happening, as well as the topics and events that were causing the most stir online. While the Games were still in action, curious viewers could head to the emoto website to take a temperature test of the general tweeting public’s feelings on a given trending topic, like Usain Bolt, or the overall tone of a particular day.

Developed for the Cultural Olympiad by Drew Hemment of FutureEverythingMoritz Stefaner, and Studio NAND, the project used sentiment analysis software from Lexalytics to determine the emotional content of each message and assign it a “score” on the positive and negative scale. These were displayed on the site as multi-colored origami-like shapes that evolved dynamically with the changing tides of the public mood.

Over the course of the Olympics’ 17-day run, the emoto team captured and analyzed some 12.5 million tweets. But why stop there? After the thrill of the closing ceremony wore off, they went on to transform the data they amassed they into a 9.5 meter long physical data sculpture and interactive installation, which recently debuted at the We Play Expo.

The installation is composed of 17 CNC-milled plates—one for each day of the Olympics, from opening to closing ceremony—which together compose a timeline of the event. Peaks and valleys are etched into the plates to indicate the volume of tweets per hour, and a heat map of color gradations is projected on top to show the public’s feelings towards a particular topic or theme over the course of the games (these were pre-determined by the emoto team).

We spoke with the emoto team to find out more about the design and creative process behind the installation. You can also find a more in-depth account of the project on Studio NAND’s website.

The Creators Project: How did you select which events would be represented in the sculpture?
Moritz Stefaner:
 First of all, the emoto team manually supervised the topics [we were tracking] for the real-time visualization during the course of the Olympics. This means we followed the Games over several news channels, and our real-time visualization on the web. In addition to this real-time process, we also created visualizations in hindsight using a custom graphing tool called the “Sentigraph,” which we created in parallel with the origami figures. All these activities allowed us to go on a data-driven ‘hunt’ for good topics within our dataset, meaning we tried to identify topics that are equally well reflected within our dataset as they were reflected in the real world, or, topics that have been an interesting data-artefact in our archive, such as the massive peaks of tweets due to the boy band One Direction. We also liked those secondary topics because we found they illustrated what emoto does in a nice way.

What is the sculpture made out of? Was it 3D printed?
Stephan Thiel, Studio NAND:
 The sculpture is CNC-milled from ‘Chemiwood,’ a Polyurethane foam that’s ideal for highly-detailed prototyping and modelling. We actually like the artefacts created by this process as well, i.e. traces left from the milling head, as opposed to the generally cleaner looking 3D prints. Additionally, the objects were painted with a gray dual-component paint, which is especially well suited for projections because it contains particles to form a structured, matte finish.

What’s being projected on the sculpture and how do these projections help highlight the development of individual stories from the Games?
Moritz Stefaner:
 As mentioned earlier, the sculpture contains all tweets we have collected for emoto. The basis for its creation process are 2D-graphics, basically gray-tone ‘heat-maps,’ which show the aggregated number of tweets per hour for each sentiment-level in a small rectangle. The lighter the rectangle, the higher the number of tweets for this hour and sentiment-level and the higher the elevation of the sculpture at this point. This results in the rollercoster-like bands you see in the sculpture.

Read the complete interview here.

Original article by Julia Kaganskiy.

Originally published on The Creator’s Project. The Creators Project is a global network dedicated to the celebration of creativity, culture and technology. Republished with kind permission.

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