Director of LSU’s social media lab discusses the events from the summer through data analysis

BATON ROUGE, LA- Lance Porter, Director of LSU Social Media Analysis and Creation Lab, discussed how the events of the summer of 2016 in Baton Rouge affected those who interacted with social media through data analysis.

On Monday, Oct. 3, and Tuesday, Oct. 4, LSU hosted the “Moment or Movement: A National Dialogue on Identity, Empowerment, and Justice for All,” a campus-wide convention that consisted of multiple talks and presentations regarding the unfortunate events that happened during the past summer. Many guest speakers, including Lance Porter, came to talk about how politics, social media, press and public opinion were portrayed during the summer.

Porter’s presentation was focused on Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics tool that LSU’s SMAC Lab uses. It allows users to look at conversations on social media and convert that information into numerical data. For example, it can read a post that talks about something sad or depressing and Crimson Hexagon will then be able to categorize this post into the ‘sad’ category. Along with the ‘sad’ category, the website can put many posts into other emotions like happiness, anger, fear, and disgust.  This website has the ability to access Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, etc. and can accumulate posts from all these websites and convert the information into data in which users can analyze.

The topics in Porter’s conversation were centered on how the two tragic events in Baton Rouge, the police shootings and the flood, were talked about on Twitter. He used many graphs and charts to display a variety of information. Porter started out talking about how when he searched ‘Baton Rouge’, over 3.2 million posts were displayed over the summer of 2016. He then discussed how the level of posts about the shootings was significantly higher than the posts about the flood. He stated that this information was “surprising” in that he thought more social media users would have talked more about the flood. Porter compared the shootings and the flood and found that more conversation was categorized into fear and anger during the shootings than during the flood.

Porter also talked a lot about the hashtag. He compared it to “a library call system” and explained how it is an easier way to categorize posts into one topic. Porter showed the top hashtags, which included #AltonSterling, the shooting that took place in Baton Rouge, and #BlackLivesMatter. He then presented the accounts that received the most mentions. The top account was @deray with over 68,000 mentions. DeRay Mckesson was known for attending a protest after the Alton Sterling shooting and video live streamed himself getting arrested. The next account with over 10,000 mentions was @POTUS. Porter explained that Barack Obama was mentioned so many times because he did not visit Baton Rouge during the events of the summer.

Many questions asked by the audience were about Crimson Hexagon and how the program worked, but one man asked, “Who cares about this data?” The question sounded so forward at the time, but Porter replied with a sufficient and inspiring answer. He responded with, “This is how young people get the information, on social media,” and he continued to explain that it is amazing how someone in New York can be a part of the events happening in Baton Rouge. The world is starting to increase its communication across the nation and he strongly stated, “We are just scratching the surface.”

Social media is becoming more popular and prevalent in today’s society. Many people are starting to interact with it, and being able to analyze this data is just the beginning of the direction social media is moving in.

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