Visualization: retweeting a revolution

Session Title

Visualization: retweeting a revolution


Gilad Lotan, Microsoft Startup Labs

Session Type: Presentation

ReTweet Revolution is a visual exploration of the most popular conversation threads that were passed amongst Twitter users at the time of the events following the Iranian elections in June of 2009. Twitter served as an incredibly engaging mechanism to disseminate information on the riots and protests that were taking place around the world. Its realtime qualities enables information to rapidly spread between users, while its personal style drives a sense of emotional involvement to the events. This piece aims to help viewers grasp which of the messages were chosen to be passed on by millions of twitter users, and how they were manipulated along the way. I strongly believe that the true revolution lies in how this medium lets people relate to news in an engaged manner. This is what I set out to explore by creating this visualization.

It is still unclear if and how Twitter made an actual difference for people on the ground in Iran. There is not enough information to claim that Iranians had been using Twitter as a means to organize the protests. However, it is unquestionable that Twitter’s unique characteristics prompted distributed reactions on a scale never seen before, engaging people all around the world. By far, the messages with imminently important information, received an overwhelming amount of retweets: from posting proxy IP addresses to passing on a plea to wear green. However, as the events played out, users learned to post messages without linking to the origin as a means of protecting the Iranian sources. It is clear that retweeting is revolutionizing the way people connect to news and newsworthy events.


Gilad is a designer at the Microsoft Startup Labs in Cambridge, Mass.
Whenever given the chance, Gilad loves playing with large data sets. He has computer science background, and a multitude of design experience. His projects and extended bio can be seen at