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Learning about health and medicine from Internet data

March 18, 2015 Comments off

Learning about health and medicine from Internet data
Source: Microsoft Research

Surveys show that around 70% of US Internet users consult the Internet when they require medical information. People seek this information using both traditional search engines and via social media. The information created using the search process offers an unprecedented opportunity for applications to monitor and improve the quality of life of people with a variety of medical conditions. In recent years, research in this area has addressed public-health questions such as the effect of media on development of anorexia, developed tools for measuring influenza rates and assessing drug safety, and examined the effects of health information on individual wellbeing. This tutorial will show how Internet data can facilitate medical research, providing an overview of the state-of-the-art in this area. During the tutorial we will discuss the information which can be gleaned from a variety of Internet data sources, including social media, search engines, and specialized medical websites. We will provide an overview of analysis methods used in recent literature, and show how results can be evaluated using publicly-available health information and online experimentation. Finally, we will discuss ethical and privacy issues and possible technological solutions. This tutorial is intended for researchers of user generated content who are interested in applying their knowledge to improve health and medicine.

Who Retweets Whom? How Digital and Legacy Journalists Interact on Twitter

March 12, 2015 Comments off

Who Retweets Whom? How Digital and Legacy Journalists Interact on Twitter (PDF)
Source: Tow Center for Digital Journalism (Columbia University)

Digital journalists in particular might be expected to thrive in a professional environment where first-line newsgathering and news distribution occurs, in whole or in part, online. But these longstanding divisions between traditional and digital journalists seem to persist. Research has found that while digital journalists link to both online and traditional content, those from traditional news organizations tend to limit their links to stories from other traditional news organizations.4 Is this pattern replicated on Twitter? Do digital and traditional journalists mainly retweet information from their own parts of the media landscape? If we see robust connections between traditional and digital journalists, we could conclude that Twitter has helped to lower professional barriers and has opened up traditional journalists to the validity of their online colleagues’ work. But if we see few connections, it would indicate that differences in prestige and awareness persist, even as the barriers to the free flow of information have been reduced.

The ISIS Twitter census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter

March 6, 2015 Comments off

The ISIS Twitter census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter
Source: Brookings Institution

Although much ink has been spilled on ISIS’s activity on Twitter, very basic questions about the group’s social media strategy remain unanswered. In a new analysis paper, J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan answer fundamental questions about how many Twitter users support ISIS, who and where they are, and how they participate in its highly organized online activities.

Previous analyses of ISIS’s Twitter reach have relied on limited segments of the overall ISIS social network. The small, cellular nature of that network—and the focus on particular subsets within the network such as foreign fighters—may create misleading conclusions. This information vacuum extends to discussions of how the West should respond to the group’s online campaigns.

Berger and Morgan present a demographic snapshot of ISIS supporters on Twitter by analyzing a sample of 20,000 ISIS-supporting Twitter accounts. Using a sophisticated and innovative methodology, the authors map the locations, preferred languages, and the number and type of followers of these accounts.

Chinese enthusiasm for social media drops sharply

February 26, 2015 Comments off

Chinese enthusiasm for social media drops sharply
Source: Kantar

Chinese social media users are increasingly concerned with the impact social media is having on their lives as the number of people who feel positively about social media has dropped by 12.1 percentage points from last year to 64.7%.

The second annual Kantar China Social Media Impact Report also found that social media is now used by more age groups, by less educated people and by people in smaller cities, while Tencent WeChat has become the dominant social media platform of an increasingly mobile-connected country.

Categories: China, Kantar, social media

Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest
Source: PLoS ONE

Many lab studies have shown that colors can evoke powerful emotions and impact human behavior. Might these phenomena drive how we act online? A key research challenge for image-sharing communities is uncovering the mechanisms by which content spreads through the community. In this paper, we investigate whether there is link between color and diffusion. Drawing on a corpus of one million images crawled from Pinterest, we find that color significantly impacts the diffusion of images and adoption of content on image sharing communities such as Pinterest, even after partially controlling for network structure and activity. Specifically, Red, Purple and pink seem to promote diffusion, while Green, Blue, Black and Yellow suppress it. To our knowledge, our study is the first to investigate how colors relate to online user behavior. In addition to contributing to the research conversation surrounding diffusion, these findings suggest future work using sophisticated computer vision techniques. We conclude with a discussion on the theoretical, practical and design implications suggested by this work—e.g. design of engaging image filters.

“She said yes!” – Liminality and Engagement Announcements on Twitter

February 19, 2015 Comments off

“She said yes!” – Liminality and Engagement Announcements on Twitter (PDF)
Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Social media sites enable people to share milestones in their lives, but relatively little is understood about how and why they are used in the context of major life changes. We utilize social media as a lens to explore the behavior of individuals undergoing a major life transition – those who use Twitter to announce that they are engaged to be married. Inspired by the anthropological concept “liminality”, we identify behavior manifested in Twitter that characterize this transitional phase. A large-scale quantitative study of Twitter postings of engaged individuals spanning two years shows that this phase marks notable changes in behavior that can be gleaned from social media. A follow-up survey provides qualitative explanations for the statistical analysis. Our findings reveal how individuals may be utilizing social media in the context of a major milestone in life, and bear implications for social media design and applications.

Hat tip: http://researchbuzz.me/

Planning and Social Media: A Case Study of Public Transit and Stigma on Twitter

February 19, 2015 Comments off

Planning and Social Media: A Case Study of Public Transit and Stigma on Twitter
Source: Journal of the American Planning Association

Problem, research strategy, and findings: How media portray public transit services can affect the way voters and stakeholders think about future transit investments. In this study, I examine social media content about public transit from a large sample of Twitter comments, finding that they reflect more negative sentiments about public transit than do the comments about most other public services, and include more negative material about transit patrons. However, transit agencies may be able to influence the tone of those comments through the way they engage with social media. Transit agencies that respond directly to questions, concerns, and comments of other social media users, as opposed to merely “blasting” announcements, have more positive statements about all aspects of services and fewer slurs directed at patrons, independent of actual service quality. The interaction does not have to be customer oriented. Agencies using Twitter to chat with users about their experiences or new service also have statistically significantly more positive sentiments expressed about them on social media. This study’s limitations are that it covers only one social media outlet, does not cover all transit agencies, and cannot fully control for differences in transit agency service.

Takeaway for practice: Planners committed to a stronger role for public transit in developing sustainable and equitable cities have a stake in the social media strategy of public transit agencies; moreover, they should not let racial and sexist slurs about patrons dominate feeds. Planners should encourage interactive social media strategies. Even agencies that only tweet interactively a few times a day seem to have more civil discussions surrounding their agencies and announcements on Twitter than agencies that use their feed only to blast service announcements.

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