MeToomentum is a self-initiated data visualization project exploring themes, geographical footprint and key moments of #MeToo.
In a world where sexual abuse and workplace harassment are too common, this online dialogue has become a powerful international movement shedding light on the magnitude of the problem, raising awareness about women’s issues and advancing human rights.
What started as a movement in North America, in English, has spread to other languages in a significant way. Although English dominates — no surprise as we only scraped the Twitter API containing the English hashtag — several other languages have thousands of related tweets: Spanish, German and French tweets appear in the top 3 in the six months analysed.
While media outlets generated significant awareness on Twitter regarding the issue, the hashtag #MeToo has allowed both celebrities and regular people to share their personal feelings and experiences — using social media as a platform for open discussion.
This dandelion illustrates tweets with more than 1K retweets and their popularity – comments, likes and retweets. Surprisingly, the trending seeds that travel the furthest (outliers with more that 50K retweets) are a mix of normal people and celebrities.
To offer a summary of what themes were contained in our dataset, we extracted the top 100 most frequent individual terms and the top 100 most frequent combination of terms (i.e. ‘sexual harassment’ vs ‘sexual’ on its own).
Many of the words that appear will resonate. From personal names (usually male names emerge as the perpetrators and female names as the victims), to where the violence takes place (‘domestic violence’, ‘red carpet’, ‘sport’, etc).
When it came to outlining the visual structure, we were seeking a metaphor to reinforce some of the movements key characteristics — its complexity, its ability to spread and take hold, and its representation of both strength and fragility.
Semiotic considerations led us to the dandelion as a visual metaphor. Often considered a weed — and certainly a pest to anyone pursuing the perfect green patch — the dandelion is renowned for its ability to spread and grow anywhere. But from another angle, the dandelion is a beautiful and complex flower. One which has been used in popular culture to symbolize endurance, growth, and the possibility of change.
Sketching became a central step between processing the data and a visual system to plot our findings. The content was a constant reminder of the gravity of the topic. And emboldened our determination to create something that could faithfully describe the story of thousands of voices.
To find this story, we relied on our curiosity and question-led investigation:
• What patterns do we see, where are the outliers, what are the key moments?
• What do the tweets say, are there key emerging themes?
• Who is tweeting, and who appear to be the primary influencers?
• What does this look like around the globe?
• Is this only an American and European experience?
We hope people will appreciate that we’re trying to give shape to a social media phenomenon. One that represents a defining moment in our society.
However, I don’t think MeToomentum offers a conclusion. The MeToo Movement is just beginning, and its role in reshaping societal change has yet to fully play out. But considering information consumption — and the ways media can obscure what and how we see things — this project illustrates that social media can play a critical role in developing tools that drive social change.
I believe that design can help us see the stories hidden in the data, and also make people sense the implication of these relationships. Rather than being the end of an investigation, it should be the beginning of a conversation. Data design can be a powerful tool to stimulate dialogue.
• to my collaborator and kickass developer Lucia Kocincova;
• to Timothy Sondreal and Ian Bamford for their precious help with copy editing and Lukas Kalcok for audio editing;
• to Erin Gallagher for kindly sharing the Twitter dataset she collected in October 2017 for her stunning network visualization;
• to our colleagues and friends at Signal Noise for their support and for exhibiting the project in their Data Obscura exhibition;
• and a very special thanks to all the brave people who have come forward and are making change possible and for the MeToo Movement to support survivors and fight to end sexual violence.