Mapping Instagram’s response to the Paris 2015 attacks

Mapping Instagram’s response to the Paris 2015 attacks

Paris Attacks: Instagram Posts & Hashtags, #ParisIsAboutLife #TousAuBistrot #TousEnTerrasse

The Paris Attacks in November 2015, were tragic, and the world responded in a variety of ways. As part of a series of Advanced Digital methods workshops that I teach at the University of Warwick, I wanted to get the Masters students to utilise data in a way that would reflect the world’s emphatic, considered and varied response. One of the most visual responses was what people were posting on Instagram, with a variety of different hashtags that both expressed their reaction to and defiance of the terrorist attacks.

One of the interesting things about trying to map social media data, is that – in contrast to Twitter, where only a tiny percentage of tweets are actually geolocated – Instagram, by default has far more posts that contain links to the geo-coordinates of users when they post.  This can be turned off by each individual user, but most don’t bother, which makes mining and visualising such data much more interesting for Social Scientists like me.

A good source of social media trending data is the BBC Trending website, which had an interesting piece on the trending hashtags being used in response to the Paris attacks. The article “‘Paris is about life’ – and other ways Parisians are fighting against fear“, spoke about how in defiance of the cycle of fear that the terrorists were trying to create, some people were going out to bistros and bars – despite the deadly attacks on such places. While others were sharing posts and slogans, such as #ParisIsAboutLife #TousAuBistrot #TousEnTerrasse.

To teach my students how to capture, map and visualise these images of defiance and solidarity, I got them to use the Netlytic toolkit to mine Instagram for posts mentioning the hashtags: #ParisIsAboutLife #TousAuBistrot #TousEnTerrasse.  Once we had the raw data as .CSV files from these Instagram scrapes, we cleaned and sorted them using Google Drive Power Tool add-ons, and then saved and imported them into the nifty CartoDB platform.  Here we mapped each post, pulling through each linked Instagram associated text into each location point on the map.  We then used some SQL and CSS code to show lines linking to how each post correlated to each original attack in the Paris district.

You can see the result of the dataviz below: Click each ‘Peace For Paris’ icon to view Instagram posts + Hashtags. Zoom out for the linked world response. Hashtags queried: #ParisIsAboutLife #TousAuBistrot #TousEnTerrasse

The full map can be explored on a separate page here: