twitterWhat can you tell about some of the biggest issues of our time by analysing the feelings of Twitter users discussing it? That’s the challenge an online marketing agency and a university want to jointly work on to discover.

Agency Hit Search and the University of Liverpool are putting together a proposal requesting access to public tweets and publicly available metadata, selecting data sets like keywords, hashtags, date and location information and more.

The scheme, called Twitter Data Grant, will see the social network handover some of its historical data to a small amount of research groups who submit successful bids.

Dr Ayesh Alshukri and Andrew Redfern from Hit Search have worked with Prof. Frans Coenen and Dr Prudence Wong from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Liverpool to create a proposal called ‘Sentiment Maps from Twitter Data: A Study In Our Changing Perceptions of Global Issues Through Time.’

The study aims to analyse sentiment from Twitter data on changing attitudes to global issues; then display the findings in the form of simple-to-understand, animated ‘sentiment maps’.

Deputy head of the computer science department at the university, Prof. Frans Coenen explained:

“We strongly believe that the work we could accomplish with this data would provide real world value and insight into popular regional attitudes and how these change with time. Understandably this is an extremely exciting prospect.”

Two specific case studies will serve as the focus of this research. The first concerns changing attitudes toward climate change and alternative energy sources and how they relate to one another.

The second study will look at poverty and food, an issue that is becoming much more of a concern across the developing world.

If successful, a three year PhD programme, funded by the University of Liverpool, will be launched with knowledge also being shared on an ongoing basis using progress tweets, a project blog, sentiment maps, press releases and scientific publications.