Twitter Is Funding A New MIT Lab For 'Social Machines'

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The MIT Media Lab announced that it has secured a five-year, $10 million investment from Twitter, which will provide access to its real-time, public steam of tweets as well as the archive of every tweet all the way back to the beginning.

This will be used for a new laboratory for social machines, which aims to solve complex social problems by developing collaborative technologies.

MIT explains, "The new initiative, based at the Media Lab, will focus on the development of new technologies to make sense of semantic and social patterns across the broad span of public mass media, social media, data streams, and digital content. Pattern discovery and data visualization will be explored to reveal interaction patterns and shared interests in relevant social systems, while collaborative tools and mobile apps will be developed to enable new forms of public communication and social organization."

Twitter's Mark Gillis discusses the endeavor on its engineering blog:

This is an exciting step for all of us at Twitter as we continue to develop new ways to support the research community. Building on the success of the Twitter Data Grants program, which attracted more than 1,300 applications, we remain committed to making public Twitter data available to researchers, instructors and students. We’ve already seen Twitter data being used in everything from epidemiology to natural disaster response.

The Laboratory for Social Machines anticipates using Twitter data to investigate the rapidly changing and intersecting worlds of news, government and collective action. The hope is that their research team will be able to understand how movements are started by better understanding how information spreads on Twitter.

“The Laboratory for Social Machines will experiment in areas of public communication and social organization where humans and machines collaborate on problems that can’t be solved manually or through automation alone,” says Deb Roy, an associate professor at the Media Lab who will lead the LSM. "Social feedback loops based on analysis of public media and data can be an effective catalyst for increasing accountability and transparency — creating mutual visibility among institutions and individuals."

Roy also holds the title of Twitter's chief media scientist.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo adds "With this investment, Twitter is seizing the opportunity to go deeper into research to understand the role Twitter and other platforms play in the way people communicate, the effect that rapid and fluid communication can have and apply those findings to complex societal issues."

The lab further discusses what it plans to build and deploy here.

Image via MIT

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.