The Map is Not Which Territory?: Speculating on the Geo-Spatial Diffusion of Ideas in the Arab Spring of 2011

Brian H. Spitzberg, Ming-Hsiang Tsou, Dipak K. Gupta, Li An, Jean Mark Gawron, Daniel Lusher


The process by which social movements move through time and space can be understood as a process of innovation diffusion of memes or ideas. This process of diffusion may be traceable through computational linguistics and map geocoding of the linguistic memes employed by such movements. A Visualizing Information Space In Ontological Networks (VISION) method is described and illustrated with web-based search results of keywords relevant to Arab Spring. Using map algebra, and with the potential for using computational linguistics, the intent is to demonstrate the feasibility of both the theoretical model of diffusion, as well as the relevance of the geospatial dimension in understanding another dimension of diffusion—the meaning space of ideas as they spread through new media. Such methodology holds substantial promise for understanding the communicative dynamics of social movements and social influence.

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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