Professor Sudha Ram

How Twitter looks

10 April 2013

Is it possible to visualize how Twitter messages propagate in cyberspace? Yes, it is.

The other day, Prof. Sudha Ram (University of Arizona) gave a presentation at the School of her research about news messages. Thanks to raw data that have been made available by the company Twitter, Prof. Ram has analyzed the propagation of news tweets. Using quantitative methods she has succeeded to test properties like lifespan, spread of news, retweeting, commenting, etc. Moreover, she has used software to visualize the propagation (see graphics below).

Professor Sudha Ram
Professor Sudha Ram, McClelland Professor of MIS, Director INSITE, University of Arizona

The further we dive into the digital age, the more data we generate. The explosion of data implies that it is becoming a daunting task to analyze everything. New ways are needed to capture the essence of data and present the essence to those using the data. At the Centre for Business Solutions at the Business School, a new research project “Competing on Visualization” has been launched. According to research leader Dr. Urban Ask, this research will show how visualization of complex economic information can help managers make informed decisions.

New York Times new tweet
Propagation of a news tweet by @NYTimes. The lines show tweets and retweets of the original message.
BBC News tweet evolution
The consecutive figures show how a news tweet from @BBCNews evolves in time

The combined effect of a) data explosion, b) unstructured data and c) the quest for speed of analyzing data goes under the notion of “Big Data”. Likely, the information age enters a new phase and Big Data seems to be the big thing. Currently, we are overwhelmed by data and we need to add a new abstraction layer to harness the vast amount of data to extract useful knowledge. There will be a vast territory of research to develop new methods of analyzing Big Data. Businesses today generate more data than they have competence and time to analyze. It is predicted that “business analytics” will become a more important profession and a huge amount of analysts will be needed to improve business performance.