Word clouds

Another method of visualizing information is through word clouds. A word cloud is a type of direct visualization, making use of the collected information itself rather than any analysis thereof. Thus, word clouds are images composed of the words that make up a particular text or set of texts. The size of each word in the visualization indicates its frequency. You can read more about word clouds here. There are lots of free tools on the web for making word clouds. I used Wordle to make the word clouds that are displayed on this page.

The following word clouds relate to the people who were posting to the three hashtags (#ausvotes, #democracysausage, and #dogsatpollingstations) that I was collecting in relation to the Australian federal election in 2016 (Case Study 1 in my DECRA project). They are made using all of the bio notes that Instagrammers put on their Instagram accounts. The bio note in Instagram is a space where members can tell the world a little or a lot about who they are, what they like, where they live and what they do among other things.

Word cloud 1: #ausvotes bio notes

One immediate observation can be made about all three datasets and the people who were commenting on the Australian federal election in 2016 on the social media platform Instagram.They are mostly from Australia. If the bio space is where people say where they are from, then these Instagrammers were mainly from Australia and Sydney and Melbourne in particular. Canberra also figures quite frequently in the #ausvotes and #dogsatpollingstations dataset, while Perth is the third most frequent Australian city mentioned in the #democracysausage dataset.

Figure 1: Word cloud of #ausvotes bio notes


Interestingly, some of the more prominent words in the #ausvotes cloud include candidate, federal, member, minister, official and authorised, which indicates that some of the Instagrammers posting to #ausvotes were the candidates themselves, or their official PR machines. The names of certain political parties are also frequent enough to make it into this cloud. These are labor, greens and arguably independent. News, journalist, media and photographer are also frequent, and some of the posts in this dataset were made by both official and unofficial news media workers. However, lots of people who use Instagram identify as ‘photographers’, thus this word is likely referring to a much broader community than exclusively news media professionals.

Like with the other two word clouds, food, lover and life are prominent, as are writer and travel. And to the #ausvotes Instagrammers, coffee and wine are clearly more important than beer!


Word cloud 2: #democracysausage bio notes
Figure 2: Word cloud of #democracysausage bio notes

It seems fitting that the next most frequent words, after place names, in the #democracysausage bio notes are food and lover. Or should that read ‘ironic’ rather than fitting – these Instagrammers are afterall convening around a sausage in a slice of white bread here. [If you don’t know what a democracy sausage is, you can see some here.]

Word cloud 3: #dogsatpollingstations bio notes
Figure 3: Word cloud of #dogsatpollingstations bio notes

Also noteworthy in the #dogsatpollingstations bio note word cloud is the prominence of dogs, dog, rescue and pup, with labrador coming in as the most popular breed here as well as more generally. Groodles, spaniels and corgies are also frequently listed, but the focus is not all on dogs. Squirrels, possums, pigeons and bears are also frequently mentioned in this set of bio notes.

[more to come]