It is now two months since Expo 2015 opened, more than long enough for us to start taking stock of the event in Milan and to monitor visitor trends and opinions on the Universal Exposition Pavilions.
After all is said and done, they have been the true focus of Expos for the past 160 years, featuring innovation, design and architecture, sometimes bold, other times less so.
In an attempt to cast light on the matter, we analysed the nearly 1.7 million posts written about the Expo in Italian and English over the past 60 days, with the assistance of Voices from the Blogs, a spin-off of Milan University and a leader in Big Data analytics. This substantial amount of data well reflects the event’s current popularity but also provides a new and interesting key to the impressions of those who visit a Pavilion (perhaps virtually but more often in real life) and immediately afterwards start tweeting about their firsthand experience, or posting on Instagram or other social media. A virtual real-time monitoring of Expo social genics which, among other things, highlights fascinating differences between local visitors (who write mostly in Italian) and international ones.
Which pavilions are the most popular, generally speaking? In the English-language rating, the top two spots for the largest number of positive mentions go to United Arab Emirates Pavilion (7.36%) and that of the United Kingdom (7.35%) but these two are absent from the “Italian” top ten. The efforts of nearby Switzerland (6.70%) and Pavilion Zero (6.01%) are much appreciated by “local” visitors but tend to be overlooked by foreigners.
How can such differences be explained? The mystery is resolved, at least in part, when we analyse the principal motivations behind opinions expressed online regarding the individual pavilions. Although those writing in English focus primarily on the architecture (30.8%), for those writing in Italian the number one reason to speak (well) of pavilions is a love of the “traditional” bread and circuses (panem et circenses) that has been around for approximately 2,000 years. Food (31.0%) and events (30.1%) emerge as their real priorities.
However, do the two worlds remain so far apart if we remove the “mundane” and focus only on comments regarding pavilion design? Certain differences remain but the top slots in the two tables start to look more alike. The lovely honeycomb structure of the United Kingdom Pavilion (designed by Wolfgang Buttress and BDP) tops the ratings in English (12.9%) and comes fourth in the Italian table (9.8%). Breathe.Austria, or rather the new sustainable urban architecture format that seeks to restore oxygen to large polluted metropolises (designed by Klaus K. Loenhart and his team.breathe.austria), comes first for the Italians (20.67%) and third for the rest of the world (8.65%). Similarly, the Italian Pavilion, designed by Nemesi and often mentioned for its appealing facade, great innovation and sustainability, is in the top 5 in English-language and Italian posts. The two tables are more closely connected and this also applies to other national pavilions such as those of Brazil, China and Germany. You might say what food divides, architecture unites.
This first social analysis on the pavilions provides plenty of ideas but it will be interesting to see what happens over the remaining two thirds of the Expo period.
© all rights reserved