What Can Twitter Tell Us About the “Real World”?

February 20, 2014 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
What Can Twitter Tell Us About the “Real World”?
Ingmar Weber, Senior Scientist in the Social Computing Group at the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI)
Center for Complex Network Research, Northeastern University
Boston, MA

Due to Twitter’s global popularity and the relative ease with which large amounts of tweets can be collected and analyzed, more and more researchers turn to Twitter as a data source for studies in Computational Social Science. But at the same time it is obvious that Twitter users are not representative of the overall population. So the question arises what Twitter can really tell us about the “Real World” beyond teens’ obsession with Justin Bieber. In this talk, I will give an overview of some past and present research done at the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) which tries to find links between the online world and the offline world.
The first line of work looks at political tension in Egypt. Is it possible to quantify tension in a polarized society and maybe even predict outbreaks of violence? Based on our methodology we find evidence that monitoring the extreme poles can give indications about periods of violence. [1, 2] – Joint work with Kiran Garimella and Alaa Batayneh
Migration is one the major driving forces behind demographic changes around the world. In this second line of work we turn to online data and digital methods to see if we can quantify certain aspects of migration for a large number of countries and faster than typical reporting latencies of often more than a year. [3] – Joint work with Emilio Zagheni, Bogdan State and Kiran Garimella
A popular saying is that you are what you eat. We study if you also tweet what you eat and if it is possible to study food consumption using Twitter. Here, we are particularly interested in questions related to obesity and if there are “networks effects”, but also in questions related to demographic influences such as income. [under review] – Joint work with Yelena Mejova and Sofiane Abbar

*Northeastern University, Department of Physics
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