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Learning From Twitter

  • Author: Nick Clayton
  • Posted: 6th October 2011



Twitter could almost have been created as a tool for scientific analysis. It churns out vast quantities of data in a format that looks perfect for computational crunching. But do tweets reflect what is really going on in the world? The BBC reports on how “engineers” (of which more later) from Texas Rice University monitored tweets during American football games. Professor Lin Zhong said that this tracking revealed what was happening in the game sometimes faster than broadcast media, often registering big events within 20 seconds.

This Twitter-following technique, he said, could be applied to anything from monitoring reactions during televised political debates to revealing the location and duration of power cuts.

 “People don’t often think of themselves as being sensors, but each of us constantly senses and reacts to our environment.

 “Thanks to social media sites like Twitter, it is now possible to capture those reactions—for millions of people—in real time,” he said.

However, other scientists were warning of the potential dangers of focusing too much research on social media and big data analysis techniques. Danah Boyd of Microsoft Research and Kate Crawford of the University of New South Wales raised a series of questions in a paper for Oxford Internet Institute’s “A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society.” One of the questions they raise is about the degree to which individuals have given permission for their social media activities to be used:

Read More at The Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2011/10/06/learning-from-twitter/

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