April 5, 2014
Tweet Map Shows American Beer Habits
Researchers at the University of Kentucky have mapped the beer and wine drinking habits of the US using tweets to create a ‘tweet map.’ By assessing a million tweets that contain location information and talk about beer or wine, the researchers were able to draw some conclusions about drinking preferences across America.
The results proved what might generally be expected, but the researchers were excited to point out that ancient cultural habits are still apparent in social media. The project also goes towards proving that local or regional identity and customs are still in place, rather than the country or the world becoming a big one-dimensional monolith.
Tweet activity showed that the eastern half of the US has a preference for Bud Light, while a liking for Coors Light is apparent in the western half, particularly near Colorado and nearby states. The Midwest and the Great Plains liked Miller Lite, while down south close to the border regions Corona and Dos Equis were popular. Regional preferences also applied to less dominant brands, such as Busch Light, Yuengling, Grain Belt, and even Sam Adams.
The researchers, Matthew Zook and Ate Poorthuis, assessed the geography of American beer and wine habits in a chapter in their book The Geography of Beer, published by Springer. They used a database repository at the University of Kentucky called DOLLY (Digital OnLine Life and You), which has stored the six billion geotagged tweets sent since 2011 across the world.
The investigation also showed that wine drinking tends to take place nearer to wine growing regions, which does make an immediate kind of sense and seems obvious, but actually is good to know when people often express concerns about us all ignoring our local produce and instead leaving massive carbon footprints across the planet. The wine producing regions of Washington, Oregon, and northern and central California saw the majority of wine tweets, while more broadly people in the coastal regions of the western or eastern US were more likely to tweet about wine. Beer tweets were more common in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and the Midwest.
I think tweet mapping is a pretty fascinating idea, and it’s nice that something as global and universal as Twitter can also tell us a little about regional habits. One amusing tweet map I came across was the FBomb site, which maps in real time where the’ F word’ is being used, in order to demonstrate where in the world people are most potty-mouthed. Looking just now, the northeastern US around New York appears to be easily the cursing capital of the world! South East Asia such as Thailand and Indonesia seemed to be having a pretty good go too. I expected more from my native UK, but I realize that at the time I write most people will be asleep there, so maybe they will catch up when they wake up. As far as the US goes, though, the East definitely outshines the West when it comes to swearing. Must be something in the Bud Light.
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