Twitter Uses People As “Sensors” for Scientific Study
You’ve read about scientists using Twitter to track the moods of people worldwide. So what else could they possibly do with the social networking site? According to engineers from Rice University and Motorola Mobility, a lot more can be done.
Comparable to how you can recognize if a friend is upset or content just by reading their texts, Facebook status updates or tweets, researchers are discovering that Twitter can be used to track many more particular things than simply a general mood. For this analysis the team of engineers went about tracking NFL fans’ excitement, as well as the action in the games, so that they could get an idea of what was happening in the football game without ever actually turning on a television set.
To begin, the engineers from Motorola Mobility Applied Research and students from William Marsh Rice University in Texas developed a computer program entitled “SportSense” that analyzes the tweets of NFL fans in real time to gauge their excitement and feelings. Additionally, the team took it a step further and enabled it to follow tweets that mentioned any touchdowns, interceptions and other significant plays.
SportSense is so powerful that it takes less than 20 seconds for it to detect when a big play like a touchdown has happened, and on numerous occasions it announced a play before ESPN or many other websites could even add the action to their play-by-play banners that scroll at the bottom of the screen.
Lin Zhong, the program’s co-creator and an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and computer science at Rice, explained that people’s constant communication on today’s social networking websites can become a type of “radar” which provides us a unique, detailed view of what is going on around the world.
Zhong wants to use modified versions of SportSense to sense other things worldwide. Reality shows, public feeling towards political debates and government policies could soon be followed more precisely than through using polls and surveys. There is also the possibility of using this type of screening on a smaller scale. An example would be to track people’s tweets and statuses on local neighborhood power outages and storms, and use this information to find out which areas are being affected the worst, or get a general clue of when the power will return.
One thing is for certain – it seems that the “scientific” use of social media and networking sites is here to stay!
Filed under: Michael Oher
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