Twitter Funds MIT social media project with $10 million investment

Twitter is investing $10 million in MIT Media Lab to create the Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM) which aims to make sense of semantic and social patterns across digital content, data streams, social media and public mass media.

Put simply, they are teaming up to gain a better understanding of social networks and find ways to benefit from them.

As part of the project, Twitter says it will provide the MIT team full access to its tweets, as well as the archives to every tweet dating back to the first one.

The MIT team will explore pattern discovery and data visualization to study interaction patterns and shared interests in relevant social systems. They will develop mobile apps and collaborative tools “to enable new forms of public communication and social organization,” MIT wrote.

The LSM aims to create new platforms so that individuals and institutions may identify, discuss, and act on critical social issues.

Even though the project will be funded by Twitter, MIT says its team will have total operational and academic independence.

Deb Roy, MIT Media Lab

Associate Professor Deb Roy.

LSM team leader, Deb Roy, an associate professor at the Media Lab, said:

“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. 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.”

CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, said:

“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.”

The San Francisco-based micro-blogging service has been active in supporting the research community. In February this year, the company launched Twitter Data Grants, which allows research institutions to access its public and historical data. So far, it has received more than 1,300 proposals.

Mark Gillis, who works at Twitter’s Academic Partnership department, hopes that the MIT team will gain a better understanding of how information spreads in Twitter.