VALA 2014 – Plenary 2 – Johann Bollen – Indiana University

Social media as an agent of socio-economic change – Johann Bollen – Indiana University.

Our world is not just physical but also subsists on a virtual array. World internet usage in 2012 – 7 billion people in the world, 2.4 billion online and it is growing – 35% of the world is online. Lowest is Africa, highest is North America.

Also amazing is the amount of content available. Johann likens the Internet to a brain, with the connections being the neural network. It’s not about government controlled broadcast, but about social collaboration and contact. 1 in 7 people are on Facebook, early the same on YouTube, 500 million on Twitter.

Social media is many to many, where people can generate their own content, establish social relations and collaboratively develop these. We have a tremendous amount of many to many interactivity happening. If you allow the masses to communicate openly, you will end up with an idiocracy?

This is a pessimistic view. Much of the world is being actively monitored by smart phones and twitter. Just goes to show there is no Loch Ness Monster, ghosts or UFOs……

People have been using twitter to monitor the world. Check out which monitors symptoms which could be a precursor to a health need.

Large groups collaborating online can be very beneficial. Haiti tweets helped to get emergency responses to where they were needed. Tweets followed the path of the Japanese earthquake.

“Wisdom of crowds” outlined why the many are smarter than the few. (Book). In who wants to be a millionaire, expert was right 65% but audience was right 91%. Vul and Pashler 2008, the guess within. Result was the average of the two guesses was more accurate than either of the two guesses. Galton’s fat ox estimate,found that with 800 guesses, the average of the estimates was within 1 % of the true value. Collective intelligence is widespread in the animal kingdom. Birds flock but there is no master. Ants always find the shortest route to food.

Need tools to study the very complex and one of those macroscopes is social media. We can examine this in more detail than ever before. Our macroscopes are network analysis, natural language processing and sentiment analysis.How do people feel about things that are happening. They have been able to analyse tweets using such tools, to judge the mood of the world at any given time or time period. As an application, they analysed tweets to make financial market predictions and correlated with the Dow. What they found is that the Dow had a correlation within three days. When people were anxious, the Dow went down a little three days later and when calm it went up three days later. Accurate about 85% of the time. These results have been confirmed by other studies.

Homiphily – is not contagion, but it is Birds of a feather flocking together. This was confirmed by research, they look for people of like moods on Twitter. Also did some research on twitter mentions and citations. Turned out there was a significant correlation. So get it out on Twitter! The total downloads and mentions are not as important as who mentions it. Media is the best source to get mentions resulting in successful citation.