Time-lapse map of worldwide protests since 1979 shows major increase in global social unrest


An animated time-lapse map of worldwide protests from 1979 to 2013:

About the creator: Animated Protest Mapping

One of the primary shortcomings of the original protest map I posted was that it only captured a static picture of protest activity over a 6 month span. While this was interesting in its own right, many people, including myself, were interested in how protest behavior changes over time. Given this, I decided to explore creating an animated version of the original protest map.


As I've mentioned before, the GDELT data covers from 1979 until present day, with continuous daily updates. I'm making use of a subset that runs through June of 2013. The same caveats of the data that I noted in the previous post about the protest map still apply. When dealing with the time-series of data, however, one additional, and very important, point also applies. The number of events recorded in GDELT grows exponentially over time, as noted in the paper introducing the dataset. This means that over time there appears to be a steady increase in events, but this should not be mistaken as a rise in the actual amount of behavior X (protest behavior in this case). Instead, due to changes in reporting and the digital recording of news stories, it is simply the case that there are more events of every type over time. In some preliminary work that is not yet publicly released, protest behavior seems to remain relatively constant over time as a percentage of the total number of events. This means that while there was an explosion of protest activity in the Middle East, and elsewhere, during the past few years, identifying visible patterns is a tricky endeavor due to the nature of the underlying data.

Finally, the data used to create the map can be viewed here. In order to reduce the data to a manageable size, only locations where 10 or more events occurred within a specific month are included. 10 events is an admittedly arbitrary cutoff, but given that the highest number of events for one location in a given month is 3,746 (Cairo in February of 2011) I feel that it is reasonable.

The Map

With these notes out of the way, the map can be viewed here. The color of each point is scaled by the number of events, with darker circles indicating more events.

Tools, etc.

Once again this map was made using the wonderful tools provided by CartoDB. For the animation specifically, I made use of the Torque library provided by CartoDB.

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