When the world’s leaders and thousands of stakeholders come together to discuss climate change, people from around the world will want to voice their opinion.
How do you map the opinion of millions? Our job was to develop a mind-blowing concept mapping the sentiment around a climate conference and we decided to stay close to nature for inspiration.
As a visual representation of the online conversation about the COP17, we created something called the ECOSPHERE: a real-time 3D visualization of the COP17 discussions as they take place on Twitter. In the ECOSPHERE, trees that grow as the global conversation unfolds represent discussion topics. Every tweet tagged with #COP17 contributes to the growth of a tree that symbolizes a certain topic, such as #COP17#CARBON for instance. The more tweets come in on a particular subject, the taller its tree grows and the brighter it glows.
Just like with real trees, leaves sprout from the branches as the tree grows. Tweets that are unrelated to any existing topic in the ECOSPHERE are placed on the surface of the Sphere as digital seeds waiting to grow. Only when other users tweet about the same subject, the seeds will grow and new topic trees will pop up.
In order to make the ECOSPHERE’s vegetation behave as naturally as possible, we based its growth algorithm on actual organic growth patterns from the plant world. Just like plants and trees compete for space and light, so do the Tweet trees in the ECOSPHERE. The strongest topics grow into the biggest trees, crowding out the small talk. Comments can be voted up, either by retweeting them from Twitter, or by liking them on the ECOSPHERE microsite. Popular comments migrate toward the top of our tree, while less popular ones move down to the bottom. We’d like to think Darwin would have been very proud.
All botanical metaphors aside, we built the ECOSPHERE in WebGL. It gathers its input by constantly monitoring the global conversation on Twitter. Every tweet tagged with #COP17 is brought into the environment, scanned for keywords and then grouped with similar contributions. The tree’s structure follows all conversational changes, but the basic underlying principle is that it grows in size as the number of comments increase. On the ECOSPHERE microsite, people can explore the world’s sentiment on climate change and plant their own digital tree of thought and watch it grow.
The ECOSPHERE microsite was live in the run-up to and during the entire span of the conference. It all came together in a visually stunning digital installation at the COP17 Conference itself, featuring a 3D holographic image of the ECOSPHERE as well as desktop terminals inviting delegates to view and contribute to the ongoing conversation. And maybe borrow an idea or two to sneak onto the conference agenda while they’re at it.
The ECOSPHERE project was supported by a multimedia campaign by CNN, featuring promo spots, print ads, digital banners and social media activation. When the dust of the conference had settled, the ECOSPHERE had gathered over 200 thousand Tweets which goes to show the environment is still a hot topic, just made a little hotter by Minivegas.
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