Twitter, The Aphorism & Semantic Analysis

On: October 23, 2008
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About Kai Henriquez


What are you doing?

Twitter allows us to broadcast (“Tweet”) the answer to this question for the rest of the world to view. Using 140 characters or less, twitter users can communicate their thoughts, ideas, links to external web pages or just any type of message or any form of textual expression to a global audience. This form of “microblogging” has increased in popularity dramatically since its release in october 2006. Thanks to its ease of use and its ‘addicting’ factor, countless users in a wide variety of countries use twitter to generate an ever increasing amount of information on thoughts, opinions and occupations, creating a fluid network of information exchange in real-time. Because of these properties twitter holds the ingredients to be(come) a reliable platform for doing research stretched across multiple disciplinary fields. In this blog post i’ll discuss certain approaches for doing research on microblogging and aspects associated with microblogging.

The psychology of aphoristic writing
What do you mean?

Because of the fact that users are limited to using 140 characters to express themselves, twitter becomes in a sense a platform for aphoristic writing and communication. The aphorism being “a phrased statement of a truth or an opinion” or in my own words, (expressed on twitter), the aphorism is a way of using few words to convey valuable meaning. Using short sentences in expressing one’s self will result, as I believe, in communicating easy to understand and sometimes even powerful and useful meaning. Psychological research may create insights on this matter and can point to the hypothesis that limiting the amount of characters a person has to express the mind, results in the transmition of significantly valuable data, information, knowledge and wisdom. This can be valuable for use and comprehension on a variety levels, like:
     • opinion polling
     • Trend watching
     • Human behavioural science
     • (inter)national security
     • surveillance, monitoring and tracking.

Of coarse everyone expresses themselves differently, but what if there is a deep/underlying psychological principle in all of us which determines that expressing ourselves in less will convey more. Research will show, time will tell. In the mean time, keep on keeping on.

Methods of research used
What do you want to know?

Being a fluid network of information exchange, twitter proved to provide a valuable resource of information for doing social research in real-time. Because of the opinions expressed on the platform the public opinion on certain subjects can be monitored and polled (in real-time). Take for example the ‘research’ done on twitter during the superbowl in 2008, “TwitterBowl”. As explained by the ‘researchers’: “TwitterBowl is a real-time social experiment where the audience rates million dollar advertisements in real time using Twitter”. Here users can rate the commercials they see while they are seeing them, providing a live feed on their opinions. Even though this wasn’t an official experiment it does show the potential twitter has, to become a real-time opinion tracking device to be used by anyone. As said about TwitterBowl: “but it’s not for anything official, just another way for social media to be an overlay where we take charge, where we control, and where we voice our opinions”.

The downside of this type of research is the method used to analyse the incoming information. In total this experiment received more then 2500 Tweets which needed analysis. The Tweets were hand copied into a spreadsheet then analysed one-by-one which is a serial exhaustive method and a complete strain on the person having to do it. Just imagine the amount of work to be done when there are tens of thousands of updates (coming in every second) that need to be analysed? The need for tools that automatically analyse the incoming information and generate the results in easy to interpret reports, would be essential for doing this type of social research on Twitter. Make way for tools that enable semantic text analysis.

Semantic text analysis, Tools that enable
“Was heißt Aufklärung?”

We need the proper tools to be able to effectively analyse the vast amounts of data and information generated on the web. Semantic search and analysis help us doing just that. Through advanced linguistic software, generated information can not only be categorized and retrieved, but it can also extract meaningful entities within the information which help the understanding of the information, rather then merely producing search results. Semantic search improves traditional Web searching by linking and defining information in a way that provides more effective discovery. It reaches beyond today’s single hyperlink connection into many different kinds of relations between resources. One way to accomplish this advanced search method is by using eXtensible Markup Language (XML), the standard for defining data elements on the Web. And because every piece of information generated on twitter is instantly coded into XML, these tools have a perfect workspace within the twitter domain.

So, what’s really going on here? Scientists, Companies, Governments and ordinary people are all interested in knowing what is really going on here. Twitter enables us to provide the world with (sometimes and only for some) an interesting, relevant and meaningful information feed, creating a fluid and dynamic network of thoughts, ideas, actions links and expressions. The need to extract and analyze important and relevant information has become prominent, so the tools to enable this have been designed and put into practice. Whether you’re a scientist doing research, a company or government observing trends, polling opinions and securing the nation or just an ordinary person using and abusing the technology, we are all subjected to the tools that enable the goal we our trying to achieve within the digital information sphere.


*Note: This post is subject to change and updates over time

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