Predicting Social Behavior using Social Network Analysis

MIT researcher Deb Roy gave one of the most impressive talks at TED 2011, “The Birth of a Word: from Gaga to Water”. Roy collected about a quarter million hour of footage inside his home to analyze how social environments influence the way his son learns language.

Roy plotted the data of the son’s interaction with the people around him inside the house and the words that were acquired on a 3D map of his house. He used this data for his research on predicting language acquisition based on the structure of when certain words were heard.

A wordscape of the word “water” – the big spikes occur in the kitchen, and the spike on the right is in the bathroom:

Roy then applies this same concept and methodology of analyzing social environments and language acquisition to the conversations happening around the world in social media. The insights you can gain are phenomenal – the factors that start topics of conversations, and more interestingly, how you can use these factors to predict social behaviors.

The nation’s conversations, updated in real time, in response to Obama’s State of the Union Address:

The power of this type of visualization has major implications. People around the blogosphere have debated over whether this could be used for good or evil, in politics, marketing and advertising, or even our personal lives. What are your thoughts?

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