Twitter has had a pivotal role in communication during recent international crisis. This has been evident in events like the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Syria protests, and the London Riots.
In London the rioters and cleanup crews were both using Twitter to organize their activities. Not only are the people who are in need tweeting but people all around the world are providing their input on the topic. This has helped spread the word about fundraising efforts for underserved causes, election races, and earthquakes.
Director of the Kno.e.sis Center in Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Amit P. Sheth, developed the idea for Twitter research. The creation of Twitris came about in 2008 when Sheth was monitoring the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Sheth and his students at Wright State University built the web app to analyze social media and it’s conversations regarding events providing data in real-time. One of the events they have analyzed was the Occupy Wall Street movement since it started in 2011.
Twitris doesn’t only analyze the sentiments of tweets, it will provide the user with related news articles and data to help readers understand those events. The app collects the event’s hashtags, topics, photos, videos, and other content to create an archived glimpse of the event. The team also included twitter slang and collected sentiments that were based in sarcasm to provide a more accurate account from all angles.
“This gives unprecedented opportunity to decision makers– from corporate analysts to coordinators during emergencies, to answer questions or take actions related to a broad variety of activities and situations: who should they really engage with, how to prioritize posts for actions in the voluminous data stream, what are the needs and who are the resource providers in emergency event, how is a corporate brand performing, and does the customer support adequately serve the needs while managing corporate reputation etc. We demonstrate these capabilities using Twitris+.” via Twitris’ website.
Tweeting Health Trends
Scientists not only are recording people’s sentiments about events but with trends in disease. Health department officials use to wait days for statistics from hospitals on the number of patients treated for a disease. Those patients usually waited a few days before going to the hospital. Until around 2008, there wasn’t much change in the system of gathering data. In a study done by Philip M. Polgreen, they tracked the increase in Google searches related to the flu with the influenza outbreaks at hospitals. The results had a very high correlation rate showing they could monitor influenza outbreaks faster.
Twitter played a major role in tracking Haiti’s cholera outbreak for John Brownstein and Rumi Chunara, from Harvard Medical School. They didn’t use search terms but used thousands of tweets and the website HealthMap to report the epidemic of cholera two weeks prior to official reports. They did mention that it is useful to track twitter activity early on but once the public’s interest in the topic is slowed it lacks correlation when the disease is not mentioned but continues to affect people. Diseases that are not ordinary are the easiest to track unlike malaria that occurs more often.
The web is continuing to change how we interact with our world.
Image credits: MR LIGHTMAN (freedigitalphotos.net)