Video of the Day: The National Pulse, as Read by Twitter

The idea of a social media index -- a way of looking at sociopolitical phenomena through data mined from social networks -- has only captured major national attention in the past several months. Researchers at Harvard University and Northeastern University have dissected three years worth of tweets to track America's mood as it changes in real time. The result is this color-coded time-lapse video of America's mood swings:

The plots were calculated using over 300 million tweets (sent between September 2006 and August 2009) collected by MPI-SWS researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. The map itself is a cartogram, a map in which the number of tweets is substituted for the true land area. The geometry of the actual map is altered so that the shape of each region is maintained as much as possible, but the area is scaled in order to be proportional to the number of tweets that originated in that region.

Researchers inferred a few interesting trends from the data about the daily and weekly happiness of users. The early morning and late evening having the highest level of happy tweets. The west coast showing happier tweets in a pattern that is consistently three hours behind the east coast. The peak in the overall tweet mood score is observed on Sunday mornings, and the trough occurs on Thursday evenings.

Click here to give the entire report a read.

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Jared Keller is a former associate editor for The Atlantic and The Atlantic Wire and has also written for Lapham's Quarterly's Deja Vu blog, National Journal's The Hotline, Boston's Weekly Dig, and Preservation magazine. 

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