News / Science & Technology

EMOTIVE Tracks and Maps National Mood Via Twitter

An icon for the Twitter application is seen on a mobile phone.
An icon for the Twitter application is seen on a mobile phone.

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Researchers at Loughborough University in England have developed computer software they say can gauge the mood of a nation, or even the entire globe, in real time.

The system, called EMOTIVE is based on analyzing Twitter feeds, they say, adding that their software program can process and analyze up to 2,000 tweets a second.

Emotionally charged words or phrases are extracted and semantically filtered into eight categories of emotion: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, shame and confusion.

“Twitter is a very concise platform through which users express publicly how they feel about a particular event, be that a criminal act, a new government policy or even a change in the weather,” said Professor Tom Jackson of the university’s Center for Information Management. “Through the computer program we have created, we can collate these expressions of feelings in real time, map them geographically and track how they develop.”

While the system can map reactions to events as they unfold, it can also analyze how the public mood changes over time.

The researchers say the system could have several applications. For example, law enforcement could use it to track potential criminal behavior or threats to public safety, and policy makers could use it to help decision making during major incidents.

Currently, the system handles British-based tweets, but the researchers say it could be scaled up easily to monitor tweets globally, of which there are 10,000 a second.

According to Amanda Overend, a spokeswoman for Loughborough University, there have already been "screenings on events outside the UK. They did one on the NSA scandal in the US."

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