Innovate Mississippi

Point Innovation Magazine Winter 2013

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Staff from the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center Left to right: Dr. Arthur Cosby, Joshua Richardson, Dr. Somya Mohanty, Jake Gaylor and Dr. John Edwards While his initial motivation was to gather and analyze social media data as an addendum to traditional survey models, the team quickly realized that the data could be used for an assortment of applications. It is that realization that drives the continued innovation as the researchers think of new ideas for analyzing the data available from social media networks. Though social networks share some similarities, including the ability to disseminate information quickly to a variety of networks and audiences, each one is inherently different at its core and in how users interact within each network. Facebook, for example, has a user base that is more focused on building an individual profile. Instagram is a media-centric network based on the sharing of photos and short videos. Twitter, however, is a more messagecentric network used for sharing short bits of information. While SMTAS allows access to more than 20 social media networks, it is Twitter's ability to share short messages that uniquely positions it for the study of social science. Typically, Twitter networks are the first to react with information to any given situation or event, allowing real-time access to the information. This, combined with the public access nature of Twitter, makes it a valuable source of data for researchers. Beyond disaster recovery, the SMTAS has been used for a number of research projects, including victim-blaming research, public response to local administrative action, tracking demographics and tobacco industry marketing. "The simple and easy-to-use interface provided by the SMTAS for the collection of data makes it possible for any researcher to tap into the vast amount of information that social media provides," said Mohanty. "Researchers can also opt for sophisticated collection mechanism with time schedules and more complex filters to fine-tune their search criteria and help filter out the noise from the data source." SMTAS is organized in a series of modules that provide unprecedented capacity for research applications within social media. The tracking and scheduling module allows researchers to track social media by word choice, phrases, location, social media influence, complex time designs and volume of tweets, among other features. The system has the capacity for primary, secondary, panel and specialized tracking. "The technology is promoting research in areas that were previously unavailable to us," added Cosby. "It is allowing us to go beyond the traditional social media analysis of brand monitoring and allowing us to develop new tools for ongoing analysis of human behavior." ‚óŹ SMTAS is funded by the Social Science Research Center and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. Visit www.ssrc.msstate.edu for more information. www.innovate.ms 31

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