Penn State doctoral student John Beieler has utilized decades of data from the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone to create a time-lapse map of every single protest on the planet since 1979 — and the result is truly amazing.
The most interesting thing about the map is the way it confirms some common predictions while completely denying others. For example, all the regions one would expect to feature protests are lit up — South Africa, the Middle East during the Arab Spring, Europe during the start of the second Iraq war, and so on — yet the timing of protests is counterintuitive, with only a small amount of protests in the late 1970s but a huge spike in the last few months. There's also a few oddities, such as a strange bubbling up of protests in Kansas at certain times (Beieler explains this below).
See the awesome graphic below:
While plenty of news sites, including the Guardian, have sung the praises of the data, Beieler himself pointed out some important limitations that should be noted with respect to his interpretation of 2013 protests (these limitations apply to the map above as well). As Beieler says:
"First, the GDELT data is based on news reports from a variety of sources (a list of sources used can be found here under 'Data Sources') ... Second, if an event occurs but does not have a specific location within a country, e.g., 'Protestors in Syria …', the event is geolocated to the centroid of the country. This means that there may be some odd events at some locations [like Kansas] ... Third, the 'Event Count' featured on the map is the number of protest events that occurred ... This means that if the 'Event Count' variable shows 60, then there were 60 unique protest events at that location."
Alas, this map is truly awesome, so I'll stop talking now and let you start fiddling with it. Do you notice anything not mentioned here? If so, let us know in the comments.