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Wednesday November 22 2017

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Twitter’s quake research role Student analysing emotional reactions „„ By Bridget Rutherford EARTHQUAKE-related Twitter posts are being analysed to provide a new way of gauging how people are coping, and whether they need more support. Lincoln University PhD student Prerita Gupta is developing a recognition algorithm to identify emotions based on keywords in tweets from 2010-2016. So far, she has collected more than 250,000 tweets as part of the research, which is expected to take up to two years. The Complex Systems, Big Data and Informatics Initiative student said people experiencing upheavals often turned to social media to express their feelings, especially Twitter. She decided to research how people reacted emotionally online when earthquakes struck. “I thought it would be interesting to know which emotions they

RESEARCH: Lincoln University student Prerita Gupta is capturing earthquake emotion through Twitter research. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER have gone through and to know the trend of emotions when they feel minor or major disasters.”

The algorithm gauges intense reactions from people, and how they are coping. An example is

a tweet such as “Sharp lil jolt felt in this morning!!!. Forgot how much I hate them.’’ Ms Gupta said the tool could be used by psychologists as a new way of gauging emotional states. She said it could be used as a decision-making tool to understand the collective state of a group affected, and to provide them better support or assistance. The data had geographical locations, so they could see what area was impacted the most, she said. “This information is very useful for health providers in examining the relationship between emotions and the use of anti-depressant medicines, helpful for the Government to plan which affected area needs the maximum health benefit and for social welfare departments to

understand the level of support they should provide to the affected party.” Ms Gupta said traditional approaches such as interviews or surveys may not be the best way to collect data, as it reminded people of the experience and could be traumatising. Analysing Twitter posts was non-intrusive, she said. The Ministry of Health is also investigating whether Facebook or Twitter posts about illnesses or symptoms could be tracked to see if there is a trend in a particular area. It was also looking at whether school absentees, employee sick leave, over-the-counter pharmacy sales, tissue sales or Healthline calls could be utilised in preventing the spread of illnesses.

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