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Imagine having your finger on the pulse of an entire city, in real time. To see its heartbeat — changes in people opinions and moods — as a cascade of color, sweeping over the terrain.

By creating an algorithm that figures out if a tweet is generally positive or negative, we were able to overlay the average “mood” of tweets onto a map and look for patterns.

On the whole, tweets were most positive near public parks like Central Park and the New York Botanical Garden, and most negative around transportation hubs such as the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel and the Brooklyn Bridge, Penn Station and Port Authority, and the two airports: JFK and LaGuardia. People closer to Times Square are happiest and the mood generally worsens the further away you go.

There were also patterns that had to do with time. Within each day, sentiment peaks at midnight, and dips between 9am-12pm. The analysis was able to use precise data about the time and location of the tweets in order to create an accurate map and see fine grained patterns.

One area, Maspeth Creek, that has extremely negative tweets coming from it, and after digging around, we discovered that it has a foul smell not only because of the gaseous mudflats, but also because it is the site of the largest oil spill in the country and receives 288 million gallons of untreated sewage each year!


While previous reports have speculated on the effect of surroundings on people’s quality of life, the new analysis shows very clearly that people are upset by an odorous creek, traffic, and trains, buses, and airplanes running late, and happiest in public parks.


K.Z. Bertrand, M. Bialik, K. Virdee, Andreas Gros, Y. Bar-Yam, Sentiment in New York City: A High Resolution Spatial and Temporal View. arXiv:1308.5010 (August 20, 2013).

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