Changing the World with Social Data (Part 2)

Twitter #DataGrants winners discuss the potential impact their research holds. 

We heard from three of the Twitter Data Grant winners and their plan for changing the world. Three more data grant winners took the stage today with Stu Shulman to talk about their plans to use social data in innovative ways.  This panel echoed much of the previous panels academic sentiment, primarily about the importance of the data industry working with researchers to make sure that the necessary datasets get into their hands, so that innovation can thrive.

Today’s data grant winners included,Kyonari Ohtake of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). His plans stemmed from the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and how to improve disaster response and communication on the government level and make sure that the right information is being spread. Tijs van den broek Tente has spent that last two years studying online communities and campaigns, such as the Movember Campaign, and their real-world impacts. His research mostly centered on whether or not social media involvement classifies as “slacktivism” or actual engagement with social issues. Finally, James Reade from the University of Reading is an economist who is interested in seeing how researchers can forecast events surrounding sporting events, and how to predict and prevent unpleasant events, such as riots or domestic abuse, that occur after an unfavorable end to a game.

These researchers seemed most interested in the sharing of processes and systems that the industry uses to digest and analyze such large amounts of social data. Although there is a massive amount of social data, and new ways to use it, they don’t necessarily want to reinvent the wheel with how to sift through it. The hope is to do this without losing any relevant data, and to ensure that they are able to differentiate the signal from the noise. In the case of disaster response situations, finding credible social data is critical, because rumors can quickly spread. In life or death scenarios, where people are relying on social data to stay informed about disasters, inaccurate information can be devastating.

The researchers also pointed out that the high volume of Twitter data grant proposals speaks to the need for this data for a broader audience and for an academic community, perhaps an extension of the Big Boulder Initiative, who can share academic insights and best practices to spread the academic value of social data. The panel expressed a hope for more federally funded social data based grants to help make the use of social data more accessible, credible and inclusive.

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