Social media are becoming increasingly geographic. Most social media mapping research and most web maps of social media data thus far focus on the tasks of capturing, locating, and displaying data extracted from social media. This task itself is a challenge; for Twitter alone, the number of tweets reached 110 million per day in January, 2011 and that number is escalating rapidly (source: Forbes.com blog). However, extracting meaning from these large, messy, but potentially important data sources is an even greater challenge that is just beginning to be addressed.
One application domain for which the need is particularly important is crisis management; the potential usefulness of social media in this domain is reflected in the increased attention given to social media by major crisis management organizations (e.g., the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit held in August, 2010) and by the crisis management research community. We have applied a visual analytics perspective to develop and implement visually-enabled information foraging and sensemaking tools for leveraging data made publically available in social media.