The great Spear debate: Twitter shows polar split

2012-05-26 20:23

Social network Twitter illustrated how polarised we were this week as the debate over artist Brett Murray’s controversial portrait of President Jacob Zuma exploded.

On Monday morning Media24 Investigations embarked on a unique project to track the mood of the country through the social network.

We wrote a computer script to track Twitter for messages relating to the Murray affair.

From Monday morning to late on Wednesday we collected some 20 000 tweets.

The rate of tweets exploded when Murray’s painting was attacked in the Goodman Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

In analysing our data we divided it into two chapters: tweets before the “defacing” incident when the debate was dominated by free speech versus personal dignity issues, and tweets from after the painting attack when the debate raged over whether this was justified or not.

We also tried to see how South Africans in different parts of the country reacted to the outcry. Before the “defacing” incident the ratio of positive tweets to negative tweets was 1.7:1 across our sample to that point.

After the defacing incident that gap narrowed, with the ratio of positive to negative tweets closing to 1.3:1.

The volume of tweets also rocketed, rising from just under 1700 over most of Monday to more than 7 000 in an hour after the painting was damaged.

Our sentiment barometer does not analyse the meaning of the tweet, it simply tries to classify the emotion of it and the shifts in mood were a telling barometre of impact of the drama on users of the online social network.

The great Spear debate on Twitter

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.