MIT Launches Laboratory for Social Machines with Major Twitter Investment

Program aims to develop collaborative technologies to tackle complex social problems

MIT Media Lab
October 1, 2014

The MIT Media Lab today announced the creation of the Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM), funded by a five-year, $10 million commitment from Twitter. As part of the new program, Twitter will also provide full access to its real-time, public stream of tweets, as well as the archive of every tweet dating back to the first.

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.

A main goal for the LSM will be to create new platforms for both individuals and institutions to identify, discuss, and act on pressing societal problems. Though funded by Twitter, the LSM will have complete operational and academic independence. In keeping with the academic mission of LSM, students and staff will work across many social media and mass media platforms — including, but not limited to, 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, and who also serves as Twitter’s chief media scientist. “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.”

“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,” says Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter.

“As social media leads us into the emergence of a new era of communication and engagement, the LSM, in collaboration with Twitter, will create analytical tools to help turn the vision of a new public sphere into reality,” adds Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab.

 

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Twitter, MIT Create New Research Lab to Analyze Every Tweet

Twitter is giving every tweet ever made publicly to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the name of research.

With a $10 million investment from Twitter, data scientists at MIT’s Media Lab are creating a new research group that will get access to Twitter’s entire feed of real-time and archived public tweets dating back to Jack Dorsey’s first in 2006. Broadly, the Laboratory for Social Machines aims to better understand how information spreads on Twitter and other social media platforms. MIT Media Lab said it plans to build data visualizations, mobile apps and other tools to “create new forms of public communication and social organization.”

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BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

Twitter Gives MIT $10 Million to Study the Social Impact of Tech

Twitter (TWTR) is giving $10 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the next five years to study patterns of public discourse on the Internet, and potentially to build technology that will make online civic action more effective. The research will happen as part of the MIT Media Lab under a vaguely ominous moniker—the Laboratory of Social Machines—and will be headed by Deb Roy, an associate professor at MIT who already spends one day a week serving as Twitter’s chief media scientist.

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NEWSWEEK

MIT Hopes Your Tweets Can Solve Society’s Problems

Twitter is handing over $10 million and access to all of its tweets to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the hopes the data will help find solutions to society’s problems.

Data scientists at the new “Laboratory for Social Machines” within MIT’s Media Lab will soon have their hands on every tweet ever tweeted—from the first, in 2006—and every new tweet in real time.

The lab’s research will also include data from Reddit, Wikipedia, and other online media, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Facebook, however, will not be included in the list of sources studied since it does not allow access to its databases, Roy told The Boston Globe.

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MAIL ONLINE

Twitter invests $10 million in laboratory to understand how people use social networks – and unravel how rumours spread

From organising protests in oppressed countries to sharing viral videos and jokes: People use Twitter to share pretty much everything. And now the Californian company has given $10 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to study exactly how the public uses Twitter to achieve different shared goals. It is hoped that the research will help experts understand how messages spread online and the origins of rumours and ideas.

Over the next five years, the university’s researchers will analyse a vast quantity of content from Twitter, Reddit and other online forums to build new communication tools that journalists, policy experts and researchers can use to uncover new patterns and trends.

The new MIT lab is called the Laboratory of Social Machines. Scientists will access data from Gnip, a Twitter-owned website that stores a vast database of historic tweets.

Twitter is keen to better understand its users and has previously awarded smaller sums of funding to academic institutions in a programme known as Twitter Data Grants. But the MIT grant is significant due to its size and scope.

There is an ‘openendness’ to the research, said Deb Roy, an associate professor at MIT’s Media Lab. He said that he has a close relationship with Twitter, in part because his former company Bluefin Labs was acquired by the San Francisco-based company in 2013. ‘Twitter has a special role to play in this concept of social change,’ Professor Roy said.

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BOSTON GLOBE

Twitter, MIT launch $10 million social media lab

The popular social network Twitter is handing over to data scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s famed Media Lab every message ever tweeted. It’s part of a five-year $10 million program to develop new ways to understand and use social networks.

The school is setting up a Laboratory for Social Machines, where researchers will work on methods for understanding public opinion through the messages we post online. The lab will be able to analyze all new Twitter messages in real time, as well as the company’s archive of all previous tweets.

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REUTERS

Twitter grants $10 million to MIT for social data analysis, new tools

Twitter Inc on Wednesday gave $10 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for research that would explore how people use and achieve shared goals using social networks.

Over five years, the university’s researchers will organize a vast quantity of content from Twitter, Reddit and other online forums and build new communication tools that journalists, policy experts and researchers can use to uncover new patterns and trends.

The new MIT lab is called the “Laboratory of Social Machines.”

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BOSTINNO

The MIT Media Lab Gets $10M from Twitter

The MIT Media Lab announced Wednesday it will be launching a Laboratory for Social Machines, courtesy of a five-year, $10-million commitment from Twitter.

The LSM will be focused on creating platforms that allow individuals and institutions to identify, discuss and act on pressing societal problems, according to MIT News. Although funded by Twitter, students and staff will be utilizing multiple social media and mass media platforms, thereby not limiting their research to the 140-character micro-blogging platform.

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