As widespread as social media is, and as close as it is to many of our lives, there's still much to learn about it. This is especially true with regards to how shared goals are achieved, and exactly how people are using social media to spread information. Companies like Twitter stand to gain from such advanced knowledge, as do many others, so the company has put up $10 million to have the Massachusetts Institute of Technology create tools that would help us better understand such things.
MIT is calling its lab for the project "Laboratory of Social Machines", and it will begin by snatching a lot of data from Twitter-owned Gnip, a site that stores a massive database of historic social media information..
Twitter's San Francisco HQ
This project isn't a selfish interest by Twitter; ultimately, it's said that journalists, policy experts, as well as researchers will stand to gain from the tools created. It's in effect a group effort, because MIT itself isn't going to be able to unearth every trend and noteworthy aspect of what's trying to be gained here. One interesting mention is that the origins of rumors could be investigated, as well as the origins of ideas and opinions.
Says Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, "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."
This project is set to last five years, so it might take some time before some useful data trickles out of it. The wait may very well be worth it.