Monday, April 14, 2014

Thinking about predicting relationships and protests from Twitter

(There are some similarities.) I had a quick talk with Kenny Joseph the other day which got me to thinking about a couple things. Incidentally, we've got a project we'll be working on in Design Fiction that could use some thinking about the future consequences of these things.

On the protest front, there's this: Can Twitter predict major events such as mass protests?
What if a "they" could predict when you'll protest next, just based on your tweets? Or rather, if they could predict when someone would protest next?

On the relationships front, there's an idea in sociology that your conversation topics and your relationships co-evolve. I'm linking to this paper, even though I cannot say I understood it. But the idea is that you talk with your weak ties about pop culture things, and with your close friends about more niche things. They're not saying which way this evolves, which causes which, but it's a good marker at least of how someone's relationship status is now.

So the obvious dystopia is: The Government, The NSA, is watching all of us and they identify and Guantanamo all probable protesters. (or Turkey's government, or Egypt's, etc.)

But what about the corporate angle? One theme in Kenny's work is: how can we identify and change people's biases? In his case, it's to reduce violence against women and children, or potentially racial violence. What if they develop a powerful new technique to modify biases using Twitter, and Applebee's gets a hold of it? Do you get more people becoming friends of Applebees? More conversations like this?