wordles of the #on911 hashtag: a brief analysis

As readers know, I am quite interested in Wordles and how they challenge out understanding of texts. I thought it would be interesting to create a Wordle of the tweets posted with the #0n911 hashtag. To gather the tweets, I tried to use Yahoo Pipes so I could filter out common operation words that Twitter adds to tweets. As usually happens when I put a Twitter feed into Yahoo Pipes, it returned nothing. So, I went to the #0n911 TwapperKeeper archive created by @jcmeloni, copied 1123 archived tweets as plain text, pasted it into Microsoft Word, and replaced “tweet,” “id,” “Fri,” “Thu,” “Sep,” and “on911” with space holders. (I chose to remove “on911” because with at least 1123 appearances in the text it would overwhelm the Wordle. I then copied the text and pasted it into Wordle. Below are Worldes with 1000, 100, 10, and 1 words (all horizontal, rounded edges, Coolvetica font, all lower-case):

worlde with 1000 words

wordle with 100 words

wordle with 10 words

wordle with 1 word

The Wordles reveal quite a bit, and not just about what people were doing that day. It is not surprising that people were at work or in class (the second most popular word in all the tweets with 150 mentions). That 2nd and second are larger than 1st and first  suggests that more people saw the second tower either hit or, like myself, turned on the TV only to watch in horror as it fell (you will recall that the second tower hit fell first).

Yet, the Wordles also suggest something about out attachment to media. It is no surprise that people turned to their TVs to learn about the event. It is, however, startling to see TV as the word that had the most mentions (193). This suggests that twitterers are remembering the event through the medium in which we saw the event, and the medium itself is extremely important when conveying memory of the event. The medium mentioned locates us within a time period; it clarifies where we were and what we were doing. It framed our understanding of what took place, just as it is framing our memory of it now. TV, the medium, was and is the message, as the saying goes.

Further, the Wordles reveal something about how we are using current online communication media, and Twitter specifically, to share memories. I was pleasantly surprised to see “rt,” or re-tweet, included in the top 10, with 114 mentions. On Twitter our texts are distributed when our followers re-tweet them, giving them a wider audience. It seems that something more might be happening here with memories of where people were on 9/11 being re-tweeted. It suggests a desire for a shared experience in memory. The medium of Twitter is providing people with an opportunity to do that, and as a result, it, like TV, also becomes part of the experience of remembering the event.

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