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Digging deeper, the research team also identified a cluster in Topeka, Kansas, where another church had threatened to follow suit. “We’re enhancing a web search engine by giving it spatial perspective,” Gupta explained. “This allows us to visualize the spread of an idea. We also do a snapshot of what happened in the whole world at that moment, and over time we can see new hotspots emerging.” The next step—overlaying the geographic results with demographics gleaned from census data—may help explain why. Age? Gender? Ethnicity? Education level? Employment status? Any of those factors could be the reason one community buzzes about a given issue while a neighboring town seems unconcerned. The researchers believe the possible applications of mapping cyberspace will span multiple disciplines, starting with homeland security, public health and marketing. “It has great potential for the future, not just for geography, but the whole of social and economic study,” Gupta said. “We can talk about terrorism more comprehensively. Why are people getting radicalized in one city, but not in another one? Who are these people? What are the policy implications? “Or we can talk about marketing. What if you launched a new product and you can see people are talking about this in Albany, but not in Syracuse? What are the differences? We can look at all those factors.” And at the same time, look at the spread of information in a whole new way. Visit the project website at — Sandra Millers Younger Contributing reporter: Lorena Nava Ruggero | 360 MAGAZINE 15

360: The Magazine of San Diego State University

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