MIT, Twitter Open Lab To Better Study Social Media

Business / Tech

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab and social media giant Twitter recently announced a 5 year, $10 million dollar initiative to study ways to better understand social media.

MIT’s famed media lab has joined forces with Twitter to develop new and innovative ways to study social media and its impacts on society.  Twitter will be handing over both every message ever tweeted and a real-time feed of active tweets as part of the agreement.  The center, known as the Laboratory for Social Machines, will analyze the data and attempt to find deeper understanding of the role social media has in today’s connected society.

Data will not be limited to Twitter, but will instead branch out into a variety of sources.

Everything from Reddit to Wikipedia to television and radio,” said Deb Roy, director of the new lab and an associate professor at the Media Lab.

Roy, Twitter’s chief media scientist since 2013, hopes that the analysis will lead to improvements in how social media is used to track news events, public health issues and popular opinion.  Twitter has previously entered in partnerships with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital to track food-borne illnesses through comments made via Twitter.  MIT-Twitter-Open-Social-Media-Lab-2The lab hopes to build upon this type of research and extend it to other types of information.

The research does bring up privacy questions, as the lab would have access to the messages of every Twitter user.  But users should not fear MIT building personal message histories as Roy has said that there is no interest in individual users.

Our plan is to work at an aggregate level,” he said. “There’s no research interest in identifying individuals and somehow singling people out.”

Are you concerned about privacy questions being raised, or do you think that society can see a real benefit from this type of research?  Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter!

  Source: The Boston Globe  Source: MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines

Featured image courtesy Wikipedia


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