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Planet Earth

The Exact Moment When New York Office Workers Start Slacking Off

D-briefBy Carl EngelkingNovember 5, 2014 12:33 AM

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People in the Big Apple are pretty productive in their mornings but social media distractions solidly take hold by lunchtime – and the rest of the day is really a wash after that. That, at least, is one observation from a new Twitter heat-map that aims to take the pulse of the bustling metropolis by analyzing New Yorkers’ Twitter activity over a 5-month timeframe. Researchers behind the map say it demonstrates that Twitter could be a valuable resource to understand human behavior in urban environments.

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In this visualization, blue is below-average Twitter volume and red/yellow is above-average.

The Heartbeat of a City

Researchers analyzed more than 6 million geolocated tweets sent from the New York City metro area between August and December 2013. Their analysis showed high and low volumes of Twitter activity followed reoccurring hourly patterns. Getting a pulse from Twitter can teach us two things: where people are, and to what extent they are either preoccupied or have time to devote to Twitter. This brings us back to New Yorkers’ work habits. In the morning, Twitter showed tiny pockets of activity in residential areas on the outskirts of downtown as people tweeted from their homes. As commuters traveled to the office, tweets congregated in Manhattan. Twitter activity was low during the morning work hours but then shot up around noon, and only really fell back down when it was time to pack it in. After the workday concluded, though, was when the tweeting really heated up. Across all the boroughs Twitter activity hits its highest levels in the evening hours, falling off again around 10 p.m. as people start going to sleep.

Other Patterns Revealed

Researchers’ analysis also revealed a few other insights about New Yorkers’ behavior. For example, on Sundays Twitter activity in Central Park reached a peak that was not observed on any other day. Twitter activity from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn on Sundays at 2 a.m. reflected the thriving nightlife. The analysis also showed spikes in Twitter activity as people arrived and waited at transportation hubs, the Statue of Liberty and the Meadowlands Sports Complex for the big football game on Sundays.

What’s in a Tweet?

So what does this all mean? Tracking the movements of large populations of people has been hampered by the lack of large-scale data flows of people and their activities. Now, Twitter is making that much more possible. Researchers say Twitter can shed light on the behavior of society, but it can also be a crucial tool for planners and designers with an eye on making cities safer and more efficient. Twitter data can help us rethink the way people move and interact within their urban environments. Twitter: the social media platform that continues to prove you can tell one hell of a story in 140 characters or less.

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