NATO in Chicago

The 2012 meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization provided an opportunity for the Lab to showcase technologies that aggregate articles and track trends on Twitter.

What it does

The Knight Lab’s NATO in Chicago project tracked how the conversation surrounding the NATO Summit 2012, which took place in Chicago, changed over time and by geographic location.

The technology tracked mentions of NATO on Twitter and pulled out the most common themes – from missile shields to Pakistan to protestors. The technology then compared the themes to a user’s location – people in Chicago vs. the rest of the world – and built various charts to help users visualize the data.

As expected, the technology demonstrated that the world at large was most concerned with what was happening with NATO policy and governance, while Chicagoans were most concerned with the impact hosting a major summit would have on their lives – protestors, traffic, the potential for unrest, etc.

NATO in Chicago also aggregated news stories about the summit and arranged them by the themes that had earlier been culled from Twitter. Users explored the aggregated content through a map interface that allowed them to see which countries around the world were concerned with which theme. Coverage from the Middle East and Southwest Asia, for example, tended to revolve around Afghanistan and the future of NATO’s mission there, while coverage from North America focused on the potential for protests.

The NATO in Chicago project was built by a team of professional staff developers and Northwestern University students.