As founders of the Social Media Lab, we believe that the emerging set of interactive Internet tools has unprecedented potential for revolutionary changes in how we work and live together. The SoMeLab is intended as an interdisciplinary space for collaborating on projects and sharing what we’re learning about these tools, their interactions, and their consequences.
Just as the development of the highway system created more flexible and lower cost transportation pathways—but also brought with it unforeseen social consequences—the new social media ecosystem radically lowers the costs to create and maintain social networks, share content, collaborate, and even organize collective action. As an information system, it is unmatched in volume, speed, and reach. As a socio-technical system, it is malleable and not amenable to centralized control. Its complexity challenges both academics and other professionals to re-examine how we curate and analyze big data and apply information to practical problems.
Recently, social media has allowed Occupiers to tell their story in ways that mainstream media cannot, or will not. Each tweet, like, blog post, and video is shared within and between social media platforms. Each is related to a personal story that reflects what is happening in real time: a port closed, protesters pepper spayed, a midnight camp raid. An early effort of the SoMe Lab is the development of analytic tools and methods that enable us to visualize, and thus to better understand, the dynamic flow of this movement’s energy and information across geography and time.