Investigating Terror in the Age of Twitter


Michael Chertoff and Dallas Lawrence in WSJ: “A dozen years ago when the terrorists struck on 9/11, there was no Facebook or Twitter or i-anything on the market. Cellphones were relatively common, but when cell networks collapsed in 2001, many people were left disconnected and wanting for immediate answers. Last week in Boston, when mobile networks became overloaded following the bombings, the social-media-savvy Boston Police Department turned to Twitter, using the platform as a makeshift newsroom to alert media and concerned citizens to breaking news.
Law-enforcement agencies around the world will note how social media played a prominent role both in telling the story and writing its eventual conclusion. Some key lessons have emerged.”

Newark's Cory Booker: Social Media Can Help Fix Broken Government


Internet Evolution on Cory Booker’s panel at Ad Age Digital Conference: “Social media have been a part of a transformation of the City of Newark from a butt of jokes to a community experiencing economic growth, Booker told the Ad Age conference. Newark has a population of 300,000 in a state with 9 million people, and yet, Newark has a third of the economic growth in the state. The city population is growing for the first time in 60 years.
Social media can be a big part of the cure for government that has become unresponsive to the needs of its citizens, Booker said. He quoted California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who uses the phrase “vending machine government.” Citizens pay for government services, and get prepackaged offerings in return. “If you don’t like what you get, you shake the vending machine,” Booker said…
When people lean back and disengage, government becomes unresponsive. But social media provide the tools for citizens to collaborate with government.  “We have all these tools pulling government away from citizens,” Booker said. These include special interest groups and moneyed corporate lobbies. “But social media brings us closer.”
Twitter helped Newark rebuild its reputation. The city had been a butt of jokes for years. When Conan O’Brien made a joke at Newark’s expense, Booker replied with an online video that said O’Brien was now on the no-fly list at Newark Airport. The TSA got into the act, issuing a statement that Booker didn’t have that power. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed up with a plea for Booker and O’Brien to just get along.
And it’s not just a matter of public relations; social media have helped improve Newark in concrete ways — Newark’s government is more effective. For example, its inspectors are vastly more efficient at finding violations when citizens can use social media to point up problems, Booker said.
Video can be an even more powerful tool for getting a message out than microblogging services such as Twitter, Booker said. And that led to discussion of Booker’s startup, #waywire. The beta video service, updated this week to focus on video curation, is a place where people can collect and share online video.”
 

Public health, disaster recovery and social media


Janice Jacobs:  “Increasingly, social media is playing a key role in helping to ease the heavy burden of these tragedies by connecting individuals and communities with each other and with critical resources…
Social media, in its simplest form, can notify the masses in real-time about situations that are happening or are about to happen.

  • In August 2011, several New Yorkers learned of an earthquake on Twitter prior to feeling it. From the D.C. area, tweets began popping up in droves almost 30 seconds before anyone felt the tremors in New York City, and ahead of any media reports about it. Twitter said that more than 40,000 earthquake-related tweets were sent within a minute of the earthquake’s manifestation…...

Social media can be used to identify trouble spots and to react quickly during emergencies.

Social media can be used to foster communication among various healthcare, aid, government agencies and individuals.

  • Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ, a prolific Twitter user, consistently tweeted helpful information for the Newark community following Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012.”

 

Boston blasts show two sides of social media


Zach Miners in ComputerWorld: “Twitter users reacted fast to the explosions that ripped through the Boston Marathon Monday, but the incident also revealed how social media can only be so reliable in such situations. Twitter spread news of the blasts quickly and was a useful communications tool for public authorities such as the Boston police and the marathon organizers. But information on social media sites can also be questionable or just plain inaccurate, noted Greg Sterling, senior analyst with Opus Research…
The Boston Police Department’s Twitter log showed a positive side of social media. It was updated minute by minute in the aftermath of the bombings, often with instructions about which areas to avoid, or information about where the most police officers might be stationed.
There was also misinformation, however. A report was circulated quickly on Twitter that police had shut down cellphone service in Boston to prevent detonation of further blasts, though it ultimately turned out to be inaccurate, according to network operators.
Others had nefarious intentions. At one point, a Twitter account with the handle @_BostonMarathon was promising to donate US$1 to victims of the blast for every one of its tweets that was retweeted. Users soon called it out as a fake, noting the real Twitter account for the Boston Marathon was @BostonMarathon.”
See also: Google’s Person Finder

Big Data can help keep the peace


NextGov story: “Some of the same social media analyses that have helped Google and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spot warning signs of a flu outbreak could be used to detect the rumblings of violent conflict before it begins, scholars said in a paper released this week.
Kenyan officials used essentially this system to track hate speech on Facebook, blogs and Twitter in advance of that nation’s 2013 presidential election, which brought Uhuru Kenyatta to power.
Similar efforts to track Syrian social media have been able to identify ceasefire violations within 15 minutes of when they occur, according to the paper on New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict prepared by the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme and the International Peace Institute and presented at the United States Institute of Peace Friday.”

Translating public health into media


Jina Moore in the Columbia Journalism Review on the fifth “Envision” conference, convened by the UN’s Department of Public Information, the Independent Film Project, and Social Good Summit Partners: “These days, there’s lots of interest among the do-gooding world—nonprofits or NGOs, private foundations and public agencies—in how to use media. Partners in Health, to name just one big public health player, regularly uses videos and storytelling in its fundraising campaigns and on its website. So Envision’s focus on getting storytellers to understand and raise awareness about public health issues isn’t exactly new. The question is, is it useful?”

Datafication


Kenneth Neil Cukier, data-editor at the Economist and co-author of  “Big Data”: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (listen to an interview with Kenneth on NPR) recently explained at Big Think a new term that describes how data mediates our lives: Datafication.

“Datafication refers to the fact that we’re looking at more aspects of life that we never actually understood as being informational before.  And finding out that that in fact there is an informational quality to it that we can render into a data format. So what we’re seeing with social media companies is they’re actually datafying aspects of the life that we never really saw that could be datafied. So for example Facebook datafies our friendships. Twitter datafies our whispers or maybe our stray thoughts.  And LinkedIn datafies our professional contacts.  And more and more and more are we seeing that we’re able to take the daily interactions of living, things that we never really saw that can be rendered into a data format and we’re putting it into data formats.”

Potential of datafication for re-imagining governance? Kenneth:

“you can just use your imagination and think of some of the extraordinary uses.  One way that we’re doing it is looking at who contacts whom on Twitter and who’s one’s followers are.  And we’re able to identify that, and we never known this before that subpopulations exist that are either immunized for the flu or are not.  Now it’s a public health issue.  The whole point of vaccinations is that you take a broad population, you vaccinate many but not all and everyone is covered. What we’ve just now learned with Twitter is that this idea of herd immunity might not be the case because there’s whole subgroups of the population that all don’t get vaccinated yet they all hang out together.  They do virtually and we’re seeing that those virtual ties are also physical ties.  I want to stress this sounds like it might be an intuitive thing.  It’s not.  It sounds like this might just be a nice thing to know, it’s deadly important.  It’s very serious.”

Watch the Video of Kenneth on Datafication:

https://web.archive.org/web/2000/https://youtu.be/FUj9Ug5kGHM

New Report on "Europeans Engagement in Participatory Democracy"


From the intro (Flash Eurobarometer) :“This report examines the extent to which European citizens engage in participatory
democracy, and the extent to which they believe that political decision-making can be influenced through their own actions and through those of non-governmental  organisations (NGOs).
The first section examines the respondents’views of NGOs and similar associations,  asking whether such groups have the power to influence local, national and EU decision-making. Respondents are also
asked whether NGOs share their own interests and values, and whether European citizens need these types of organisations.
In the second section, the discussion switches to the perceived effectiveness of various means of influencing political decision-making, especially voting in local, national and European elections. Respondents are also asked to consider whether joining an NGO is an effective way of exerting influence.
The third and final section covers citizens’ engagement in political decision-making, examining whether respondents seek to express their views by signing petitions or by communicating through social media, for example. Finally, the discussion turns to the level of participation in NGOs and other associations, such as Trade Unions.”

A new vocabulary for the 21st Century: Datafication


Kenneth Neil Cukier, data-editor at the Economist and co-author of  “Big Data”: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think (listen to an interview with Kenneth on NPR) recently explained at Big Think a new term that describes how data mediates our lives : Datafication.

“Datafication refers to the fact that we’re looking at more aspects of life that we never actually understood as being informational before.  And finding out that that in fact there is an informational quality to it that we can render into a data format. So what we’re seeing with social media companies is they’re actually datafying aspects of the life that we never really saw that could be datafied. So for example Facebook datafies our friendships. Twitter datafies our whispers or maybe our stray thoughts.  And LinkedIn datafies our professional contacts.  And more and more and more are we seeing that we’re able to take the daily interactions of living, things that we never really saw that can be rendered into a data format and we’re putting it into data formats.”

Potential of datafication for re-imagining governance? Kenneth:

“you can just use your imagination and think of some of the extraordinary uses.  One way that we’re doing it is looking at who contacts whom on Twitter and who’s one’s followers are.  And we’re able to identify that, and we never known this before that subpopulations exist that are either immunized for the flu or are not.  Now it’s a public health issue.  The whole point of vaccinations is that you take a broad population, you vaccinate many but not all and everyone is covered. What we’ve just now learned with Twitter is that this idea of herd immunity might not be the case because there’s whole subgroups of the population that all don’t get vaccinated yet they all hang out together.  They do virtually and we’re seeing that those virtual ties are also physical ties.  I want to stress this sounds like it might be an intuitive thing.  It’s not.  It sounds like this might just be a nice thing to know, it’s deadly important.  It’s very serious.”

Watch the Video ofKenneth on Datafication: