Social Tension Mapping 101

Why Tension Mapping is Necessary
Currently, there is no method to define or identify the tension levels within a community. If a major employer goes out of business, and a large population of the community is suddenly unemployed -- what is the effect to the overall anxiety level of the community? What is the effect to the community of a teenager succumbs to suicidal thoughts due to major depression? How does hunger affect our community, our crime level; our safety?
If a police officer, during a traffic stop, shoots a member of the community; regardless of race, religion or age of the individual, what is the effect on the community? What were the tension levels prior to the incident? How long does it take for the community to return to 'normal' levels? How do you know if or when it has occurred?
If a political figure makes an inflammatory comment publicly and causes tension within the community; and your child suddenly finds their school divided by controversy; will you know it is occurring?
These are just a few examples of issues that could raise anxiety within local communites, but are currently not tracked in any data-accessible manner. When we see an increase in physical altercations in schools, civilian protests, or town hall meetings with angry citizens, we also currently don't have a way to know if our responses to these issues are working. This is a serious gap that must be resolved.
How do you overcome a gap? You build a bridge. The Bridge Effect Foundation (TBEF) is a 501c3 organization committed to four goals:
  1. Create a method to identify and track what is causing tensions within a community and the current tension levels.
  2. Provide that information open source to local service organizations, civic offices and the general public to help identify the root causes of civil tension.
  3. Develop, fund and communicate the availability of proactive tension de-escalation initiatives within the community, and track the efficacy of these initiatives by the changes in community tensions.
  4. Create engaging, family-oriented civic events and venues where service providers and the people they serve can interact outside of the roles of service provider and service recipient. This interaction is pivotal to the tension-reduction process and must be nurtured.
Building this bridge will:
  • Allow agencies to identify high-tension areas and in turn spend resources wisely on specivif, focused, mitigations
  • Provide the community with the knowledge of what service providers are doing to allay their anxiety and concerns
  • Act as a warning system to the community when an unrest situation is eminent.​
Create a Method to Track Community Tension
Social tensions, for the purpose of this research, is defined through demographic, and poll-based opinion data being described by a community or population as to their current overall level of anxiety about defined, base human needs:
  • availability of food, housing and employment
  • sense of safety at home, school, or work
  • stable society and culture
  • mental well being
  • physicial health
By collecting public opinion data at regular intervals through existing demographic data and supporting citizen surveys, we can create a "tension map" that can identify the prevailing range, modulations and spikes the public opinion for multiple social issues.
This baseline data could then be surveyed quarterly or even monthly to create a control-chart of the data stream.
The use of subjective data for this analysis has been corroborated through Recent Studies, such as the June, 2013, S. Jahedi, F. M'endez study, "On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Subjective Measures.," from the Department of Economics University of Arkansas. In it, Subjective data was determined to be, in models like the one proposed by TBEF:
"...when perfect information about objective measures for the variable of interest are not available, then subjective measures can perform better because of their ability to measure unobservables. In our experiment, general subjective measures of crime effectively captured both explicit and implicit events, where objective measures were only able to capture the former... We believe, for example, that asking people about their perceptions of racism can shed light on discrimination that cannot be observed with objective data just as we believe that subjective values of health can inform doctors of issues that their instruments are incapable of finding. The trend away from general subjective measures towards specific measures seems unwarranted. As we have shown, the correct measure will depend on what the researcher is trying to understand. If one is trying to study a broadly-defined concept, such as overall crime, then even perfectly collected field data on every single crime that took place may still be worse than subjective questionnaires."
That is not to say more specific questions can't be added to support advanced analysis, such as for anti-anxiety or anti-depression drug use, or government assisted food support, for instance. These questions could be added or removed over time as improvement is made to reduce these issues within our community.
But for an overall sense of the tensions a community feels toward a general subject, subjective data is preferred.

Proposed Value & Tension Mapping Methods:

The goal of the Bridge Effect Foundation is to develop a resource called TensionTrac (TM pending) to provide statistically confident, control-charting with defined specification level data for state, county, and zip-code level analysis of social tension levels and risk perceptions. TBEF will become an innovative new resource for government, service providers, and community leaders to understand public opinions that can inform national, state and local decision-making, policy, and education initiatives.
TensionTrac will collect demographic data to create a baseline level of tension per zip code, and then use phone-based, online, and live surveys to ask citizens questions such as, “How safe do you feel in your neighborhood during the day? At night? When calling police for help?,” and asks respondents to answer general, subjective questions. The subjective tension data is collected by zip code, and the collected data is reviewed to assure that the data only from validated sources. Finally, “clean” tension feedback is made public through the website.
Survey sample sizes will be calculated and conducted to provide a margin of error of 0.5 with a 95% level of confidence, with both an unknown mean and an unknown standard deviation. This data model will be used and evaluated for efficacy, and, should results not meet desired outcomes, survey methods and questions can be re-designed and improved until an accurate depiction of community anxiety is attained.
Model Validation:

This use of subjective data and similar methods of collecting citizen opinion data to support civic policy development and community outreach initiatives has been modeled after similar studies such. Both the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the Welsh Government Community Cohesion Initiative Tension Mapping Program are using similar methods.
Specific information on collection methods can be found in the Yale Program on Climate Change White Paper and the Welsh Community Cohesion Initiative 2015 Update.
Final Value Satement:

Our long-term vision is to provide this data to our community to support the development of sustainable, tension-mitigation programs to engender a thriving, robust, tension-resilient community.