An Interactive Map That Documents Egypt’s Protests and Violence

How It Works
Aug. 20 2013 2:12 PM

Mapping Egypt’s Week of Chaos

I’ve written a bit before about Global Data on Events Location and Tone (GDELT), the latest and greatest thing in data-driven political science. GDELT, developed by researchers at Georgetown, Penn State, and the University of Texas at Dallas, is an automated database of more than a quarter of a billion political events since 1979— everything from street protests to politicians’ speeches, to terrorist attacks—culled by software from published news reports and coded to indicate the actors involved, the action that occurred, and where it happened. What makes GDELT different from other projects along these lines (such as this one developed by the Pentagon) is that anyone with the necessary programming skills can download and use it, and the fact that it’s continuously updating—the system adds new events every night.

One particularly useful application for GDELT is conflict-mapping. It has already been used for projects to track patterns of violence in Afghanistan and Syria. John Beieler, a Ph.D. student in political science at Penn State who runs the official GDELT blog, has used it to create this stunning map of political protests throughout the world in 2013. 

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Beieler’s latest project is the map above, which shows protests and violent clashes in Egypt during the tumultuous week of Aug. 9 to Aug. 17. The pulldown menu in the upper-right corner allows you to limit the display to just protests or just violence. There are a few glitches—for instance, an article about a solidarity protest in Dublin that quotes a man from the town of Domyat is coded by GDELT as a protest in Domyat—and as always, the database is dependent on reporters actually covering the events in question. But within Cairo, it gives a vivid picture of one of Egypt’s most chaotic weeks.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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