I’ve been spending some time helping out the University encourage school girls into Computing, and since doing so, many have accused me of having softened significantly (to put it respectfully). Now before you join in with the accusations, I’d like to point out that this blog post is about a specific module in the MSc in Advanced Computer Science that has forced me to study One Direction and eat cake (there truly is no rest for the weary).
The module is titled Web and Social Computing. The aim of this module is to teach us about various types of social media and their uses to research. It is extremely practical and a session involves lectures till lunch and programming from lunch till the end of the day (with cake on the side). The lecturer for the module is young (the youngest in Computer Science), energetic and remarkably good at spotting when the cake concentration in our blood is dangerously low.
To provide an example of the use of social media in research (besides providing an invaluable distraction), in Japan researchers gathered and analysed tweets to figure out when and where an earthquake had occurred so that emergency response teams could be rushed to the area. This method detected earthquakes much faster than Japan’s Meteorological Agency.
So what about One Direction? Well, during our practical sessions I implemented a little application that gathered any tweets about One Direction, showed where they originated from (on a map) and showed the most common words occurring in the tweets. All this whilst eating cake might I add (So I truly was having my cake and eating it too). Through this, I was able to see that One Direction seemed to be in Manila (due to the amount of tweets originating from there). I knew this to be true as I happened to read in the news the other day that they were on tour there (It was in the headlines and completely unavoidable). The word cloud created from tweets showed me that Zayn Malik was being talked about a lot as he had just left the tour (Again, another completely unavoidable article I read in the news whilst reading about the elections). So it’s easy to see the potential that things such as Twitter have as this was … uhuh… a piece of cake to implement (OK that’s the last cake idiom).
There are still two sessions to go and the last session will be a full day’s coding session for which we have to come up with an idea and implement it as a group (I’m predicting a tiered cake or hog roast to accompany the last session). The idea we have come up with is a system that pulls crime data (which is available online) and uses Artificial Intelligence to predict when and where the next crime will occur. If we managed to implement this, it would be the icing on the cake (Sorry, haven’t had cake for two weeks straight thanks to the Easter break. Life’s been rough.).