Disclaimer: As a designer, I prefer to take on a personal point of view instead of trying to turn myself into a good reporter. There’s also the fact that I am not an extraordinary English speaker (and too perfectionist to think this is ok). So bear with me. 😉
Last week, Miguel and I were talking about the conservative wave that has been sweeping the social networks in Brazil. Our subject, at the time, was the recent implementation of a network of cycle paths in the capital of São Paulo, the largest and most congested city in the country.
São Paulo has way too many cars. For a population of around 12 million, the state capital registered 5.4 million cars – roughly one for every two people, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (Detran). The metro network in the city is burdened, overcrowded, and does not reach the entire urban area. Buses are also crowded and subject to traffic conditions.
In June 2013 people marched in the city, protesting against the increase in bus and subway fares. When cases of police violence against demonstrators became public, the popular movement expanded and millions of people took to the streets of the whole country.
After these events, the mayor of São Paulo Fernando Haddad attempted to reduce traffic chaos through unpopular actions such as creating exclusive bus lanes, improving fleets and remodeling public roads, culminating with the implementation of a network of cycle paths in 2014. At this time, a war between the drivers culture and the bike culture drew up very clearly on social networks, and soon transformed into a textual war between individualists and collectivists. The mayor received a barrage of criticism from angry drivers who complained about the reduced space in the streets for their cars. Most pedestrians and cyclists, however, approved, and Haddad’s popularity grew among young people.
My own timeline of Facebook, however, seemed almost immune to that criticism against the cycle paths. Messages with very conservative content rarely appear in my Facebook feed, and I was only aware of them because of comments made by outraged friends or articles in magazines and newspapers.
From this fact came the idea to address the ideological bubbles on social networks. Do our private feeds on social networks correspond to general opinion in the real world?
With the recent protests in Brazil against the rule of President Dilma Rousseff, we thought that the war we spoke of would certainly intensify. It would be interesting to compare the Facebook public news feed to the private feeds of specific users, trying to create a visualization of the results.
Using Facebook API, I scanned the public stream for posts in Portuguese containing the name of the president, and stored dozens of files like this one, so that I could analyse the results. Unfortunately, however, I could not code the search in private news feeds in time to follow the course of events in social networks, so there was not enough data for a good comparison.