The World's (Phone) Reactions to Obama's Inauguration

senseable city call obama

On Obama’s Inauguration Day the world watched… and called each other. And those calls were voluminous and corresponded to parts of his speech. To see just how the world reached out to each other MIT’s Senseable City Lab and AT&T teamed up to analyze the call records of that day. In honor of Obama’s 100th day in office they released a series of data visualizations at Obama | One People. The project lead was Andrea Vaccari, a frequent ETech speaker.

On that day “call activity is two to three times stronger than usual, and it rises to five times the normal levels after 2 pm as President Obama takes his oath”. The Senseable City team created visualizations for activity in the DC and across the world. The City viz (image above) is described as:

The City joins the mobile call data with a map of Washington D.C. to produce a stirring visualization. The areas around the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, where most inaugural activities took place, are highlighted on the map with 3-D building models colored in yellow. In the center of the screen, the map of Washington, D.C. is overlaid with a 3-D color-coded animated surface of square tiles (1 tile represents an area of 150 x 150 meters). Each tile rises and turns red as call activity increases and likewise drops and turns yellow as activity decreases. On the left, a bar chart breaks down the call activity by showing the normalized contributions of calls from the 50 states and 138 foreign countries grouped by continent. The timeline at the bottom illustrates the overall trend of call activity in the city during the week of the Presidential Inauguration.

There is a Bonus version of the city visualization after the jump that includes state-level call data for the nation.

obama one world

Obama | One People also has a world visualization described as:

The World illustrates the provenance of those who traveled from all over the U.S. and the world to Washington D.C. to witness President Obama’s inauguration. It interprets the variations in call activity as flows of people arriving in Washington, D.C. and then leaving the capital to go back to their home states and countries. A world map shows links between Washington, D.C. and countries abroad. Dynamic packets of information represent 100 calls for U.S. States and 10 calls for foreign countries depending on whether call activity increased or decreased in relation to the previous hour. The timeline on the bottom of the screen connects back to The City visualization by showing the overall trend of call activity in Washington, D.C. during the week of the Presidential Inauguration.

The Senseable City team also included some analysis of the call logs:

The states with the strongest increase were the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, with calls up to twelve times the normal levels. These are states that played a prominent role in the Civil Rights movement and notably are also so-called red states whose voting population went for the Republican candidate, John McCain. Other states with a ten-fold increase in call activity were Illinois, Barack Obama’s home state, and Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, swing states which went blue, voting for President Obama. Most interestingly, comparing these results with U.S. demographic statistics shows that the percentage of African Americans in each U.S. state is a predominant factor determining increase in call activity and therefore participation in the event, which instead was not necessarily influenced by the state’s proximity to Washington, D.C. or its political leaning.

Obama’s inauguration was one of the most recorded events in history. The MIT project does not have quite the emotional impact that CNN’s collaboration with Microsoft to create a Photosynth called The Moment. Or the humor of the Onion’s fictional report on Obama being outfitted with 238 Motion Capture Sensors to create a 3D record of his tenure. However by finding a way to involve the world the project has more accurately captured the importance of this moment.

information aesthetics also has coverage.

Bonus Version of the City:

World Visualization:

  • This would be hilarious, if the long-term implications weren’t so disturbing. I used to have trouble understanding the glassy-eyed and weeping Germans with their arms outstretched to The One in 1930s newsreels. Now I need only go down the street to a business still plastered with “Hope and Change” campaign posters.

    And you can’t really grasp why Europe remained unwilling to confront Hitler for so long until your realize that the press outside Germany displayed some of that same adulation. British papers regularly had pictures of Hitler hiking in lederhosen or receiving a delegation of children in regional costumes. In today’s context, every major speech by Hitler would result in MIT’s Senseable City Lab, looking at the tangled web of Europeans chattering about it and gushing like a love-sick teen girl.

    Of course, there is a difference. Hitler actually got results. Even foes such as G. K, Chesterton and Winston Churchill admitted that. All this present-day chattering is about a Messiah whose lifetime list of accomplishments is virtually zero and who seems to alternate between bullying decent people (corporate CEOs) and bowing deeply to Arab dictators (the theocratic Saudi king). Even Carter has never sunk that low.

    Although the actual source is debated, there is a quote attributed to G. K. Chesterton that fits well with what we are seeing. “When men cease to believe in God,” he said, “they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything.”

  • Ex-patriot

    Yes, it’s nearly (but not really) as frightening as the Bush rallies during the 2004 election when all the participants were screened for their ideological “purity”.

    Of course, the liberal media was just so at the throats of the Bush presidency; helping it to convince the country that like in Nazi Germany, a small country (in their case Poland, in ours Iraq) was a formidable threat to the largest military and economic power in the world.

    And I recall so clearly, all the conservatives fighting for liberty and freedom when the Bushies had the NSA wiretap and record all communications traffic inside and outside of our borders.

    I think I saw Dick Cheney on TV just the other night fighting for the freedom to torture those individuals the State has determined to be evil; without a trial nor due process.

    Of course, he was just defending our freedoms! And such a defender! He certainly didn’t let that silly Constitution of the United States get in his way. Nor any “humanitarian” treaties!

    Legal thuggery all of it, from Hitler to Cheney/Bush.

    You conservativ