BlogTrackers: Analyzing Social Media for Cultural Modeling

Project: Research project

Project Details


Social media is an emerging tool that extends the ways people communicate from our daily life, to business dealings, to entertainment, to crisis response, and to military operations. Social media is playing an important role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and crisis monitoring. Hurricane Irene was the first disaster where an online social media, Twitter, was used by the Government for Emergency Preparedness and Response1. Usually the volume of information in online social media is so high that it is impractical to filter them manually and identify information within them, so that the information is trustworthy to be used by the HADR agencies to act upon. With ONRs grants since 2008 at ASU, At DMML/ASU, we have built social media data collection and analysis capabilities with previous and current ONR grants since 2008, including software systems like BlogTrackers, TweetTracker, and ACT and a social computing data repository. Preliminary field trials of these systems have demonstrated both successes and limitations. A social scientist (co-PI Dr. Merlyna Lim) at ASU, who specializes in Islamic studies, has provided expert advice on collecting data in blogosphere and other social media like Twitter. BlogTrackers is now tracking several politically active blogs from the Middle-East and Indonesia. BlogTrackers is being used by the social scientist to perform tasks such as coding and analysis of blogs based on traffic patterns and influence. TweetTracker is a microblog monitoring and analysis system, which is using Twitter as a source of data. It is capable of retrieving tweets from Twitter in a timely fashion based on specified keywords, hashtags, and geographic boundaries. It is currently deployed for an NGO (Humanity Road Inc.) for monitoring emerging disasters across the world. It supports near real-time tweet summarization using word clouds, map visualization, and identification of popular hashtags and relevant links to information sources. There are also data search export facilities built into the system, aiding its users to export and share relevant data with ease. It also has built-in language translation capabilities to make interpretation of foreign language tweets easier. ACT is a stable crisis mapping platform inspired by Ushahidi, which is designed keeping first responders in mind. Its main goal is to promote inter agency coordination. It is a social-media-based system comprising of four modules: request collection, response, coordination, and statistics. User requests are collected via crowdsourcing and groupsourcing and stored in a requests pool after preprocessing. The system visualizes the requests pool on a map. Organizations respond to requests through the crisis map directly by selecting the node and adding it to a relief package. Organizations coordinate based on the concept of inter-agency, which governs the visibility of requests on map and tracking its status. A statistics module runs in the background to help track relief progress. By both leveraging crowdsourced information and providing the means for a groupsourcing response, organizations will be able to assist persons affected by a crisis more effectively with ACT. Our successful collaborations with external organizations in experimenting and developing the capabilities of using BlogTrackers, TweetTracker, and ACT necessitate the expansion of the research and development scopes of the current project so as to make the availability of successful systems to more organizations (military, NGO, or research-education related) in crisis monitoring.
Effective start/end date5/1/1012/31/13


  • DOD-NAVY: Office of Naval Research (ONR): $823,032.00


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