Idea for a Dataset/Project Proposal

I know this post is coming a bit late but I was so inspired by Hypercities that I had to go ahead and write about it. I have been anxiously awaiting our discussion of mapping all semester, and have not been disappointed. I was particularly inspired by the project gathering the tweets occurring during the Egyptian revolution and with Yoh Kawano’s attempt to use GIS to empower Japanese people to acquire knowledge of the radiation in a given area in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. It was a bit of a revelation to me to see scholars taking on projects that will really help people outside of academia, and that have such personal relevance for them.

Reading this also gave me an idea of what I would like to do in DH—possibly for my dataset project or my large project proposal. I would really like to harvest (?) locational data about the tweets sent last August in Texas during a few of the hearings, and protests, related to House Bill 60, as well as Wendy Davis’s filibuster. These bills which came up for debate in the Texas House and the Senate at this time aimed to severely restrict Texas women’s access to abortion and other reproductive care. These measures (which I believe have now been partially put into effect) disproportionately affect the many Hispanic women living in South Texas, where virtually no clinics were able to remain open, and working class women, who cannot afford to take off several days or more to travel the long distance now necessary to get reproductive care. In a state that takes eight hours to drive across width-wise and probably more to drive across length-wise, there are only seven abortion clinics left—all of which are located in Texas’s few and widely scattered urban areas.

As you can see, geography has played a big part in which women have been affected by these laws. However, geography also played a role in whose voices have been heard in the protests, and whose have been silenced. There is a wide perception that Austin is the only area of Texas with a significant liberal population, and that the rest of Texas is hyper-conservative. While this may be true to a large extent, I believe there are pockets of people all over Texas who strongly opposed those measures, and whose voices were marginalized and trivialized when Rick Perry said the protesters did not represent “real” Texans. Though indeed many protesters present were from Austin, there was substantial opposition to the measures on Twitter as well—a medium which, while it certainly is not accessible to all Texans, provided a relatively efficient and  economical alternative to in-person protesting. I think plotting on a map the frequency of use of certain hashtags popular in these events such as #standwithwendy and #comeandtakeit might give voices to these silenced people, dissipating the feelings of hoplessness and isolation that come with being a liberal person in Texas, and providing a convincing illustration of the extent to which the Republican leadership of Texas in promoting measures like these, ignores the wishes not only of liberals in Austin, but of a much wider portion of its constituency. This project was very important to me because I was actively involved at the time and feel the need to help, though I no longer live in Texas.

It seems like I will definitely have to learn about APIs, and maybe some kind of mapping software. This may be a very large project I am aiming toward, but if anyone knows what other skills I might need to get started, I would be very much obliged for your input!!!

12 thoughts on “Idea for a Dataset/Project Proposal

  1. Stephen Real

    What a great idea for a project! There are, in fact, many political stories that would lend themselves to this kind of approach. Beyond individual conflicts or events, it would be interesting to use mapping to explore the apparent red/blue divide from a geographical viewpoint. Specifically, the urban centers seem to be much more consistantly liberal than rural areas. Testing this conventional wisdom and beginning to uncover underlying causes or connections would be interesting.

  2. Sarah Cohn

    I don’t have any technical wisdom to add, but I agree with Stephen this has the makings of an interesting project. It seems that relatively little attention is paid to where the $$ for campaigns is coming from, but (in this case anyway) there were all kinds of assertions that the non-money/vocal internet support came from outside of Texas. It might be too much to undertake, but I think it would be instructive to compare locations of social media support to those of donations–money is speech these days.

  3. Christopher Meatto

    Hi Elissa,

    Great idea. I’m interested in geospatial mapping and social history issues–maybe we could talk about getting a group together for a term 2 project? I don’t know much about the software, but I’m starting to investigate.


  4. Elissa Myers Post author

    Thank you all for your enthusiasm and support! It is great to hear that others think this is a good idea! Does anyone know if going to the workshop on R might help me with this? I found a program on HyperCities called Stream Daemon that will help me get the data I need from Twitter, but it seems like I would need to program to be able to do it. It says to make an application, and it sounds like it might be using Python, because it keeps saying to use phrases that end in “.py”. I hope this questions makes enough sense to be answered! I know very little about code or any of this, but am trying to learn!

  5. James Mason

    My data project is pretty similar, though I didn’t think about the relevance of geo-location. There are a few programs I’ve used so far for the collecting / archiving of tweets, but they’re all either too expensive or too barebones (as you may have read in my post much earlier in the semester). There’s no getting around it, if you want to do the project you will most likely have to work with the Twitter API. Since our projects are somewhat similar, feel free to get it touch with me, perhaps we can try to get a small workshop environment for mining Twitter? What do you think?

  6. Elissa Myers Post author


    Thanks so much for your replies! I would love to get a workshop together. Perhaps others would be interested as well? Now I remember reading your blog post at the beginning of the semester. I probably didn’t remember it right away because I had so little technical knowledge at the beginning that it was hard for me to understand it back then. Now, though, I am super grateful for it! It shows me the problems I am likely to have with my own dataset, so that they don’t catch me by surprise. Thanks again for the workshop offer! We will talk in class about this. If anyone else wants to join in, let us know!

  7. sydnee wagner


    This is such a great idea. I too was involved with the filibuster protests and prior/proceeding protests that happened surrounding House Bill 60 (as many feminists living in Texas were) so it definitely is something that I find important. I also love the idea of a workshop about mining twitter in general.

  8. Mary Catherine Kinniburgh


    This is such a wonderful start for a project, and it’s so inspiring to see a community already springing up around the questions you’re pinning down!

    I don’t have experience in the Twitter part, although I look forward to hearing what this research collective, if you will, comes up with! I’d be happy to think about the actual mapping part with you, and the ways that your data might best be represented geographically.

    Looking forward to hearing more!


  9. Renzo Adler

    Sounds interesting. Is there any precedent for a similar project that might serve as a template for how you conduct your research? Also, will you look at social media avenues other than Twitter?

  10. Steve Brier

    If there is enough interest in the class to work with the Twitter API I’m sure we can find someone to offer a workshop on it. Several students have already used it in their work and I think we can find a volunteer to lead a discussion. Why don’t you poll one another on this? If we have at least three or four takers I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

  11. (Martha) Joy Rose

    Elissa – In Laura Klein’s YouTube video for this class there is a slide for Republican tweets, vs. Democrat tweets. Republicans are MUCH MORE active. Interesting ! Love your sensibilities here in this blog. MJR

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