Free University Course Analysis

Notice: This project is still in process.

Project Description:
For this project, we are looking at course descriptions and titles from the May Day and Sept. 18-22 Free Universities (for information on the Free University, please visit: We are interested in figuring out what sort of classes—subject matter, interests, concerns—were offered at both events and identifying changing concerns from the first Madison Square Park Free University to the second.

Datasets & Tools Used:

  1. We used Free University’s published course information for both events and put together a spreadsheet containing all of that information.
  2. We then used Google Refine ( to parse the words from the course descriptions and titles and cluster together words by their roots without sacrificing precision (e.g. demonstration and demonstrate become demonstr-, but activism and activist are not clustered together).
  3. We then used Wordle ( to get a preliminary sense of what the data looked like (visible below).
  4. Then, we exported the spreadsheet from Google Refine and into Gephi ( to draw a cognitive map of the Free University course content. This map shows courses embedded within a word network based on the frequency of those words as they occur in the course description and title. (This information will be published here once available.)

Wordle Visualizations:

May Day Free University Courses
Sept. 18-22 Free University Courses

Thoughts on Potential Next Steps:
During both of the Free University events, Twitter was used to communicate course information before and throughout the event. The use of Twitter became more prominent with the second Free University in Madison Square Park, since this event not only took place over five days, but also had a daily-updated dynamic schedule live on a website weeks before the event (the May Day Free University released a PDF course packet just prior to the event).

If we look at how Twitter was used to communicate course information, how would this information relate to the full course listings?