Workshop in Beirut | The Guardian Panorama on Lebanon

Within the rich Beirut Design Week’s events agenda the Density Design Lab (Giorgio Roberto Uboldi, Azzurra Pini and Matteo Azzi) and the Sciences Po-Médialab (Donato Ricci) have been invited for an intensive 3 days workshop about digital methods and data visualization.

The aim of the workshop was to learn how to unveil and describe unexpected stories extracting meaning from big digital datasets by creating different visualizations.
During the workshop the 20 participants explored all the articles related to Lebanon published by the Guardian, to understand how Lebanon is perceived abroad: who are the main actors, relations and most relevant topics.

Preparatory phase

We used the Guardian API to collect all the articles related to Lebanon from 2005 to 2012, for a total amount of 4634 articles.
By using an ad-hoc software, ANTA, designed and developed at Sciences-Po, the relevant semantic  entities of each article have been extracted.

After a semi-automated cleaning process (including among the others tools like Google Refine) the finale dataset was composed of more than 4000 unique entities.

The workshop

The workshop was structured in three session, each one focusing on different topics and different tasks for the participants. During the first lesson, we introduce the workshop and present the dataset the participants had to deal with for the entire workshop. Then we asked them to enrich the dataset dividing the 4000 entities in different categories (e.g: places, people, institutions).

In this way we prepared the ground for the others tasks that converged in a collective final exhibition divided in three layers:
1- A timeline that showed the trends of the entities and categories from 2005 to 2012
2- A series of maps with all the geographical data linked to Lebanon divided per trimesters
3- A series of network graphs divided per trimesters able to show the relations between the entities in order to show how the actors and topics are connected to each other on the Guardian.

The timeline, visualized through a 9 meters stacked area chart, let us see how the quantity of information about Lebanon on the Guardian is strictly linked to the main events occurred in the last seven years, like the 2006 War or the assassination of Rafic Hariri in 2005.
We could also observe that in the last two years the attention on Lebanon increased enormously due to the evolution of the so called Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. During the exhibition we asked the visitors and the participants to add notes on the timeline according to the main peaks, in order to make the timeline richer of information.

During the second session the students had to extract the entities related to geographical places and visualized them on a map. The exercise revealed the main geographical patterns related to Lebanon and their changes according to the main events.

The last, and probably the most interesting and challenging session, was about creating network graphs in order to show the existing relations between the entities in the articles. Like in the previous task, we asked the students to choose a trimester and visualize the network through Gephi.

The size of the nodes corresponded to the frequency in the trimester and the edges showed if the entities were present in the same article. In this way the participants were able to discover the main discussions occurring on the Guardian and around which actors they evolve. Most of the topics were pretty expected and these are the usual suspects in the press when mentioning Lebanon: Israel, Syria, Iraq, War, United Nations and Terrorism. At the same time we could observe parallel discussions occurring only in certain periods that gave the possibility to unveil and discover hidden stories, that usually lebanese people don’t see related to their country.

Video by Laboratoire d’Art.

See more picture here

We would like to thank especially:
Mena Design Research Center for inviting us and the great organization.
Laboratoire d’Art for hosting us (Thank you very much Brahim!).
All the participants that attended the workshop with great enthusiasm: Aaraj Grace, Adlouni Sarah, Attoui Loryne, Baba Joana, Boukarim Marwa, Eid Charbel, Geagea Nadine, Gebrayel Imad, Gedeon Nayla, Halwaji Lama, Maalouf Nicolas, Matloub Maria, Mhanna Simon, Mishoyan Peno, Nasr Rania, Pier Giuseppe Mariconda, Saad Rana, Sabbouh Tarek, Saudargaite Ieva, Srouji Serene, Zeidan Yara, Zouein Lama.



  1. 1. Grace Aaraj Says:


    Grace here. I attended the workshop. It was a great one!

    Thank you!

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