Visual Analysis of Topic Competition on Social Media

Panpan Xu, Yingcai Wu, Enxun Wei, Tai-Quan Peng, Shixia Liu, Jonathan J. H. Zhu, Huamin Qu

How do various topics compete for public attention when they are spreading on social media? What roles do opinion leaders play in the rise and fall of competitiveness of various topics? In this study, we propose an expanded topic competition model to characterize the competition for public attention on multiple topics promoted by various opinion leaders on social media. To allow an intuitive understanding of the estimated measures, we present a timeline visualization through a metaphoric interpretation of the results. The visual design features both topical and social aspects of the information diffusion process by compositing ThemeRiver with storyline style visualization. ThemeRiver shows the increase and decrease of competitiveness of each topic. Opinion leaders are drawn as threads that converge or diverge with regard to their roles in influencing the public agenda change over time. To validate the effectiveness of the visual analysis techniques, we report the insights gained on two collections of Tweets: the 2012 United States presidential election and the Occupy Wall Street movement.