Twitter’s $10 Million Funds Data Lab

twitter MIT

The MIT Media Lab announced Wednesday Oct 1 the creation of the Laboratory for Social Machines, a program dedicated to “the development of new technologies to make sense of semantic and social patterns across the broad span of public mass media, social media, data streams, and digital content,” according to an MIT release. The lab will focus on addressing key social issues through different forms of social and traditional media sources.

The LSM backed by MIT’s Ivy League reputation as well as a $10 million commitment from Twitter over the next five years. Twitter has also given MIT complete access to its real-time public stream of tweets and an archive of every tweet ever tweeted via Gnip, Twitter’s in-house data provider. Chief media scientist and MIT Media Lab professor Deb Roy will act as the head of the LSM. While Twitter has made a sizeable investment in the program, the university will maintain complete operational and academic independence. The LSM actively analyze other social media sites and digital media sources to explore different social systems.

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“The Laboratory for Social Machines will experiment in areas of public communication and social organization where humans and machines collaborate on problems that can’t be solved manually or through automation alone,” Roy said.

Every day more and more interactions happen across social media platforms. According to Pew research, 74 percent of adults use social networking sites and 19 percent are active on Twitter, as of January 2014. With access to different social platforms, both traditional and digital, the LSM will observe trends and patterns and attempt to visualize them in order to make better sense of human behaviors in terms of social media.

Twitter announcedin April it would give access of its historical and live data sets to six research universities worldwide including UC San Diego and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Japan as part of their Data Grants program. MIT was not one of the original six universities selected by Twitter for Data Grants but Twitter stated that the LSM will use the same Gnip data sets as the other universities.

Twitter intends to expand access among research universities to its Gnip data sets. What do you think are some likely outcomes of granting access such as this?

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