April 21, 2014

Are there really more juggalos than polar bears?

Here at Floatingsheep, we tend to be concerned with the most pressing issues currently facing humanity. We've been known to tackle issues ranging from racism and hate speech to the drug trade and the coming zombie apocalypse. But up until now, we've never addressed an issue seen by many to be the defining challenge of our time: the global climate crisis. While we would have loved to cover this kind of issue a long time ago, we were unsure of how we could use the wealth of geotagged social media data at our fingertips to address such big problems. That is, until we came across this (now somewhat dated) gif featuring David Cross:

In fact there are more juggalos on earth right now, than there are polar bears.
You're kidding me, right?
Though this statistic is striking -- designed to play on society's penchant for valorizing facts, delivered by bearded men, about charismatic megafauna like the polar bear -- like any good geographers we immediately latched onto its lack of geographic context. As much as we have come to trust celebrity spokespeople (after all they are the most knowledgeable people on the planet) we feel that occasionally we should do some fact-checking.

While we should certainly be sympathetic to the plight of the polar bear, if not for its cuddliness (once you get past their ability to eat you), than at least as a proxy for global biodiversity, this is only a partial story. Like any other social phenomenon, both juggalos [1] and polar bears are distributed unevenly throughout space, which isn't accounted for by only relying on these global level statistics.

So we sought out to find answers to the following questions: do juggalos and polar bears tend to inhabit the same spaces? does the growth of juggalos coincide with the decline of polar bears? are juggalos as affected by the global climate crisis as polar bears? or do juggalos pose an existential threat to polar bears?  And perhaps the most interesting question, are juggalos actually polar bears in disguise?

Based on our preliminary research, we chose to limit our analysis to the continental US, as it is the center for juggalo activity around the world. Indeed, no other country in the world has anything approaching parity between tweets mentioning juggalos and those mentioning polar bears. If we are to make the (obviously safe, non-controversial, and totally scientifically accurate) assumption that geotagged tweeting is perfectly representative of the world-at-large, this is a potential hole in the argument advanced by the aforementioned meme. So we will simply ignore this fact and instead interpret it as the first promising sign for environmentalists concerned about the twin calamity faced by the extinction of a highly visible species and the mass of empty Faygo bottles that will have to be cleaned up when the juggalos are running the place?

Collecting all geotagged tweets from July 2012 to mid-April 2014 referencing "polar bear" and "juggalo" (or variations thereof), we produced the map below to get a firmer grasp on the geographies of the juggalo vs. polar bear antagonism. There are a total of 23,742 tweets referencing polar bear in this time frame, with just 15,781 mentioning juggalo, giving us reason to believe that the polar bears (and, well, humanity as a whole) might still have some hope left. That is, unless all of the polar bear-related tweets are simply commenting on the futility of saving these animals and the fact that they're all dying before our very eyes.

Geotagged Twitter References to Juggalos vs. Polar Bears

As our analysis shows, significant portions of the continental United States, shown in both white and grey, are home to no significant concentrations of either juggalos or polar bears. And while the spatial distribution of both terms is somewhat random [2], the highest concentrations of polar bears tend to be in large US cities known for their zoos. Sunny San Diego seems to be the most likely safe haven for polar bears, while Chicago, New York City and Atlanta are all characterized by their relative wealth of polar bears and lack of juggalos. And while San Diego and Atlanta are perhaps the most stark in this respect, it is interesting to note that polar bear tweeting doesn't seem to be concentrated in the country's colder climates. Perhaps the polar bears are themselves influenced by space-time compression and have decided to partake in seasonal migration to the south pole and are being spotted by Twitter users during brief pitstops in North America?

Juggalo-related tweeting has a significantly different, if still somewhat random, spatial signature. Rural Pennington County, Minnesota has both the highest absolute and relative number of juggalo tweets, due to what appears to be a lone, extraordinarily active member of the juggalo Twitterverse [3]. Based on the overall levels of tweeting, most juggalos still demonstrate a kind of agglomeration process, just not in the country's major urban areas. For instance, Salt Lake City, Utah has the second highest predominance of juggalo tweeting in the country, while the suburban counties around St. Louis, Birmingham and Boston are all relatively dominated by juggalos.

But the absence of a couple of key places from this list warrants further attention. First is the Detroit area, not to mention the rust belt more generally, which is known as the home of ICP and the juggalo subculture. While Wayne County has the sixth most juggalo tweets in the country in absolute terms, it also has a relatively sizable number of polar bear tweets, resulting in only a moderate advantage for juggalo-related tweets. So, were we to assume that juggalos and polar bears are not mutually exclusive or threatening to one another, perhaps we should look to Detroit as a potential site for a polar bear sanctuary when all of the ice melts?

Similarly, Worcester, Massachusetts, declared by ICP co-founder Violent J as perhaps the band's favorite city to perform in, actually displays a slightly greater concentration of polar bear tweeting than juggalo tweeting, which unfortunately might lead the clown posse to reconsider this favoritism. Luckily enough, this concentration of polar bear tweeting in Worcester seems to only be related to a key city landmark, the inflatable polar bear on top of the Polar Soda Factory that greets passerby on I-290, rather than a real concentration of polar bears. Nonetheless, the local prominence of Polar Soda has surely cut into the market of a key juggalo commodity: Faygo.

As our analysis has shown, there is more to the story of juggalos and polar bears than meets the eye. Clearly, there are more references to polar bears than to juggalos, both globally and in the United States. But the relationship between these two is considerably more complex and contradictory than is assumed by David Cross and his ilk. Obviously more research is required as ten-second gifs are not up to conveying the complexity of the juggalo-polar bear ecosystem.

While the parity in juggalo and polar bear-related tweeting in some places could indicate peaceful coexistence, so too could it mean the potential for bitter rivalry and resentment, as also indicated in the near complete lack of references to one or the other in some areas. Either way, it's probably best to just take refuge in one of the many places with no references to either juggalos or polar bears, as you should not wish to encounter either in the wild. Godspeed.

UPDATE (1:30pm): Be sure to check out this infographic, which we were previously unaware of, which explores some of these same issues surrounding the relationship between endangered species and Juggalos.
[1] Juggalos are, of course, followers of the band Insane Clown Posse.
[2] As in, completely freakin' random.
[3] We're not sure if there is a scarier phrase in the English language than this one. All 13,929 or so other residents of Pennington County, Minnesota are advised to seek cover.

April 07, 2014

Catch Floatingsheep at AAG 2014 in Tampa

The Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers is upon us! Find below a close-to-comprehensive schedule of where you can find your favorite Ovis geographers during the conference, as well as some places you can find other interesting stuff, too!

Tuesday, April 8

The conference kicks off with three successive sessions organized by Matt and Mark, in which they'll also be presenting.
1156 Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities I: Practicing Data Shadows
8:00 AM - 9:40 AM in Grand Salon E, Marriott, Second Floor

1256 Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities II: Coding Data Shadows
10:00 AM - 11:40 AM in Grand Salon E, Marriott, Second Floor

1456 Data Shadows and Urban Augmented Realities III: Tracking Data Shadows
12:40 PM - 2:20 PM in Grand Salon E, Marriott, Second Floor
Running concurrent with those sessions will be a couple of other sheep-related sessions that Monica has a hand in. First is a panel on 'tribes' organized by Renee Sieber, which Monica will be participating in. After that is a paper session organized by Monica and Joe Eckert, in which Ate will be presenting a paper.
1122 Battle of the Tribes: geoweb, GIS, GI Science, cyberGIS, neogeography
8:00 AM - 9:40 AM in Room 22, TCC, First Floor

1216 Alternative Computation and Unconventional Spaces
10:00 AM - 11:40 AM in Room 16, TCC, First Floor
Ironsheep 2014 will be held from 5-9pm on Monday evening at the Tampa Bay Wave. Check here for more details.

Wednesday, April 9

Matt and Matt 'the' Wilson also have organized a star-studded panel session on the future of GIScience education featuring Sarah Elwood, Nadine Schuurmann and Mike Goodchild, among others.
2154 Visioning GIScience Education
8:00 AM - 9:40 AM in Grand Salon C, Marriott, Second Floor
There's also the alt.conference on Big Data co-organized by friends-of-sheep Joe Eckert, Jim Thatcher and Andy Shears. Various floating sheeple will be participating in these sessions at different times and in different capacities.
2210 alt.conference on Big Data: Opening Panel
10:00 AM - 11:40 AM in Room 10, TCC, First Floor

2410 alt.conference on Big Data: Lightning Panels
12:40 PM - 2:20 PM in Room 10, TCC, First Floor

2510 alt.conference on Big Data: Tech Demos
2:40 PM - 4:20 PM in Room 10, TCC, First Floor

2610 alt.conference on Big Data: Lightning Talk Discussion
4:40 PM - 6:20 PM in Room 10, TCC, First Floor
The Annual Kentucky-Arizona Wildcat Party, where you can often find the floating sheeple, will be held on Wednesday night at the Double Decker (1721 E. 7th St.), starting at 8pm.

Thursday, April 10

On Thursday, Taylor has organized two sessions on the smart city with Alan Wiig from Temple University. Taylor will be presenting in these sessions, along with Matt Wilson and Rob Kitchin.
3130 Thinking the 'smart city': power, politics and networked urbanism I
8:00 AM - 9:40 AM in Room 30A, TCC, Fourth Floor

3230 Thinking the 'smart city': power, politics and networked urbanism II
10:00 AM - 11:40 AM in Room 30A, TCC, Fourth Floor
Friday, April 11

Monica will be presenting her research in the Nystrom Award session, part of the competition for the best paper from a recent dissertation in geography.
4111 J. Warren Nystrom Award Session 1
8:00 AM - 9:40 AM in Room 11, TCC, First Floor
Jen Jack Gieseking and Luke Bergmann have also organized a trio of sessions around digital geographies. While none of the sheeple will be direct participants, some UK Geographers will be participating, just for good measure.
We hope to see you all in Tampa!

April 02, 2014

New Book Chapter on the Geographies of Beer on Twitter

We're pleased to announce a new publication by members of the Floatingsheep team. Just released is "Offline Brews and Online Views: Exploring the Geography of Beer on Twitter", a new book chapter written by Matt and Ate that analyzes the geographies of beer-related tweeting activity. Published in a new edited collection from Springer appropriately- and straightforwardly-entitled The Geography of Beer, Matt and Ate's paper -- the latest in Floatingsheep's long line of investigations into the geographies of beer -- shows that geotagged tweets about beer, and other alcoholic beverages for that matter, are reflective of people's offline consumption preferences.

Using a database of one million geotagged tweets from June 2012 to May 2013 containing the keywords "wine", "beer" or the names of a range of light or cheaper beers within the continental US, some clear regional variations in alcoholic beverage preference are detected. For instance, when comparing tweets referencing "wine" to those referencing "beer", wine-related tweets tend to be more dominant along both the east and west coasts of the US. But this kind of variation is present even when comparing different brands of light beer. While Bud Light is more popular in the eastern and southeastern US, Coors Light tends to dominate the west coast, with Miller Lite and Busch Light being preferred in the midwest and Great Plains. The dominance of these brands in virtual space is no surprise, as they also dwarf the competition in actual sales.

But these regional variations are even more distinct when one looks at locally- or regionally-specific brands. While some of these cheaper (which is not to say less delicious!) beers have reached a national or even international market, others remain popular in only a very limited region, owing either to local tradition or simply limited distribution outside of their home-markets. Nonetheless, by mapping the concentrations of geotagged tweets referencing each of these brands, we're able to uncover these regional particularities, as is shown in the map below, taken from Matt and Ate's chapter.

Aggregated Geographies of Tweets referencing Regional 'Cheap' Beers

From Sam Adams in New England to Yuengling in Pennsylvania to Grain Belt and Schlitz in the upper Midwest, these beers are quite clearly associated with particular places. Other beers, like Hudepohl and Goose Island are interesting in that they stretch out from their places of origin -- Cincinnati and Chicago, respectively -- to encompass a much broader region where there tend to be fewer regionally-specific competitors, at least historically. On the other hand, beers like Lone Star, Corona and Dos Equis tend to have significant overlap in their regional preferences, with all three having some level of dominance along the US-Mexico border region, but with major competition between these brands in both Arizona and Texas.

Beer, like many other social practices, may be millennia-old, but the socio-spatial practices associated with it – checking into a brewery, posting a review, geotagging a photo – continue to evolve with technological change. As such, this kind of data provides an important way to capture these socio-spatial practices and preferences, while demonstrating how even in an era of supposed globalization and homogenization, regional histories and cultures continue to be reflected online in important ways.

If you don't have access and would like to read more about this, please contact Matt at zook [at] uky [dot] edu for a pre-publication version of the chapter. Bottoms up!

The full citation for Matt and Ate's chapter is below:
Zook, M. and A. Poorthuis. 2014. "Offline Brews and Online Views: Exploring the Geography of Beer Tweets". In The Geography of Beer, eds. M. Patterson and N. Hoalst-Pullen. Springer. pp. 201-209.