30 January 2014

Social Media Mapping Initiative to Start

An independent research organization is setting out to build a roadmap of social media information flows.

Jon Shackleford, former online political organizer and open-source software guru, has turned his attention to a more academic pursuit: finding out just how information travels down that series of tubes we’ve all come to depend on. His new group, Internet Influence Analysts, was formed in May 2013 and announced this flagship project just after New Year’s Day.

The group’s press release indicates that the project, called the Independent Social Media Audit, or ISMA, will pick up where previous studies and services left off, by attempting to identify what IIA calls “covert influencers”—people with little or no name recognition who nonetheless make huge impacts on the content that propagates through social media networks. IIA has named Dr. Li Junbao of MIT to head the project, and is in negotiations with DataFarms, a Colorado Springs-based datacenter contractor, to house the ISMA servers.

Shackleford told Dispatches via email, “The point of this project isn’t to find the next Maria Popova or Cory Doctorow. This is all about finding people who are under the radar, but who end up drastically changing the narrative two or three steps down the chain. It’s about finding that butterfly in India that makes a hurricane hit Miami.”

IIA has not indicated what it will do with the data it collects from its target social media sources, primarily Twitter, along with specialty SM like Pinterest, Instagram, GitHub, and Netroil. Should the project succeed and the data be made available for purchase, Shackleford and crew will certainly make a healthy profit on this information.

The project is slated for completion in early 2015. No budget has been released by IIA.

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