The Media Watch on Climate Change (MWCC) is a continuously updated knowledge repository on climate change and related environmental issues. A visual dashboard provides interactive means to access this repository, analyze stakeholder perceptions, and track emerging trends in online coverage. The system collects, filters, annotates and visualizes documents from a wide range of English, French and German sources – news media, social networking platforms, Web sites of Fortune 1000 companies and environmental organizations. The capturing of stakeholder communication, automatically and in real time, enables an unprecedented level of transparency.
Stakeholders must manage and apply relevant knowledge to address societal issues effectively, and to ensure that change is conceived and implemented on both regional andsociety-wide scales. Understanding the reach of the topics various parties discuss and the opinions they voice is a complex process that requires knowledge on how topics and stakeholders relate to each other.
Insights into this process was one of the topics at a recent World Bank communication conference in Washington D.C. Organized by the Connect4Climate team, this event brought together a unique, multi-disciplinary group of scholars and multi-sector leaders who are experts incommunicating climate change to a broad audience. They invited me to present impact and communication success metrics developed for NOAA Climate.gov, and used visual tools of the MWCC to analyze Earth Day 2015 online coverage.
To generate its visualizations, the MWCC needs to collect and enrich a large number of documents from online sources that are heterogeneous in terms of authorship, formatting, and update frequency. Data is harvested from a wide range of sources. In the case of Earth Day, for example, the system gathered more than 125,000 postings and articles from 150 Anglo-American news media sites, blogs, Web 2.0 platforms (including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube), scientific outlets, and the websites of environmental organizations and Fortune 1000 companies. The MWCC uses the webLyzard Web intelligence platform to identify the most relevant content from these sources, integrate the gathered content into a comprehensive knowledge repository, and reveal dynamic patterns and trends through visual analytics components.
Searching the Knowledge Repository
At any given time, the MWCC displays only a subset of the vast document space, depending on the selected source, time interval, and affective filter – e.g. articles about Earth Day 2015 activities that were published by Anglo-American news media outlets between March and May 2015 (see Figure1). Two tutorials provide a quick introduction to the various features of the system. The first tutorial tackles information retrieval, from writing effective queries to analyzing results. The second tutorial conveys a deeper understanding of topics and term lists.
Figure 1. Trend chart showing Earth Day news media coverage between March and May 2015
The interactive dashboard shown in Figure 2 allows querying the database, and analyzing the extracted knowledge in real time. Visual tools embedded into the dashboard let users navigate the information space along multiple dimensions. The synchronized display of geographic maps,tag clouds, keyword graphs, and information landscapes helps users understand the specific context of the public dialog, e.g. by showing recent postings in a regional context, for example. It also sheds light on stakeholder perceptions, reveals the flow of relevant information between stakeholders, and provides metrics for assessing the effectiveness of awareness and public outreach campaigns.
Figure 2. Screenshot of the Media Watch on Climate Change
Figure 3. Entity Map showing relations among people and organizations associated with Earth Hour 2015
The capabilities or the MWCC are continuously evolving. Two major European initiatives are currently extending the platform that is powering the MWCC search and visualization capabilities. The ASAP Project increases the scalability of methods to analyze and visualize big data archives. The DecarboNet Project applies these methods to transform the Media Watch on Climate Change into a collective awareness platform that supports collaborative editing and reveals how information is created and shared in social media communities.
Arno Scharl heads the Department of New Media Technology at MODUL University Vienna, and is the managing director of webLyzard technology. His research interests focus on Web intelligence and big data analytics, human-computer interaction, environmental communication and collaboration, and the integration of semantic and geospatial Web technology.