Saturday, September 29, 2012

Social media shaping policy

In last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2012 IgNobel Prizes edition) on Daily Kos, I found these two stories about how social media is shaping policy. The first involves the use of social media in diplomacy. My reaction is "about time" considering how important social media was in the Arab Spring and also the current unrest over "The Innocence of Muslims."*

University of Arizona: UA Study Looks at Use of Social Media in Public Diplomacy
School of Journalism
September 17, 2012
The use of social media for the purpose of public diplomacy has increasingly drawn the attention of U.S. diplomacy professionals, observers and political analysts especially after the recent attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya that were triggered by outrage over an anti-Islamic video released on Sept. 11. As more riots are planned in neighboring countries, including Algeria and Yemen, U.S. embassies have used Twitter posts to save face and play defense.

Shahira Fahmy, an associate professor in the University of Arizona School of Journalism, and a colleague from the University of Texas examined foreign public diplomacy specialists’ adoption of social media such as Twitter for public diplomacy purposes. Using a survey of foreign embassies and consulates, their study explored whether effort and performance expectancy, social influence and attitudes, facilitating conditions and perceived credibility might have influenced the adoption of social media in public diplomacy practice.

“The U.S. government and foreign policy analysts have shown great interest and enthusiasm in exploring how to increase the efficiency of using social media for more effective public diplomacy. However, studies on the issue have been rare. By the time my colleague and I initiated this research in 2009, a search in the scholarly database ProQuest with key words ‘diplomacy’ and ‘social media’ or any type of the social media such as ‘blog,’ ‘YouTube,’ ‘Twitter,’ or ‘Wikipedia’ generated no results,” Fahmy said.
The second describes how researchers are monitoring social media for reports of adverse drug reactions. If it improves medical care, I'm all for it.

University of Virginia: Research To Sift Social Media for Early Signs of Adverse Drug Reactions
H. Brevy Cannon
September 20, 2012
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $130,000 grant to a team co-led by University of Virginia professor Ahmed Abbasi to fund research that will analyze social media, including tweets and online discussion forums, to identify adverse drug reactions – a process that promises to be much faster and perhaps also more accurate than the existing methods of identifying such reactions.

Using state-of-the-art data analysis tools, Abbasi, a professor of information technology at U.Va.’s McIntire School of Commerce, and four collaborators at West Virginia University will explore how tens of thousands of pharmaceutical-related comments shared on Web forums, blogs and other social media can be harnessed as an early-warning signal of adverse drug reactions.

Currently, once drugs come to market, the FDA relies upon consumers to report adverse side-effects through physicians and other official reporting channels.
Welcome to the 21st Century; we live in science-fiction times.

*On that topic, the L.A. Times reports 'Innocence of Muslims' filmmaker under tight security at lockup.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the filmmaker behind the anti-Islam video "Innocence of Muslims" that has sparked violence across the globe, was under tight security Friday at a federal detention facility in downtown L.A.

Nakoula was arrested Thursday on suspicion of violating the terms of his probation, including allegedly lying about his role in the film's production.
Nakoula, who was on supervised release from a 2010 conviction for bank fraud, faces eight charges of probation violation, including making false statements to authorities about the film. When probation officials questioned him about the video, Nakoula allegedly claimed his role was limited to writing the script, and he denied ever using the same "Sam Bacile" in connection with the film, according to Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert Dugdale.
Dugdale said none of the violations Nakoula is accused of relate to use of the Internet, even though his probation terms specify he is not permitted to possess or use a device with access to the Internet without permission from his probation officer.
Nakoula uploaded the trailer to the film to YouTube, which counts as social media. As you can see social media can work for ill or good.

On another meta note, in Election news from campuses on the campaign trail, I discussed my ideas for the next two months.
I plan on...featuring the research of public universities in swing states, with the additions of states hosting presidential and vice-presidential debates. As of right now, that would mean stories from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia....
As you can see, I included a story from Arizona, which is definitely not a swing state in the presidential election. Obviously, I changed my mind. Here's what I wrote in last week's OND.
Between now and the general election, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in swing states for either the presidential election or competitive contests for the U.S. Senate, plus those states holding presidential or vice-presidential debates during the week. Competitive states will be determined based on the percentage chance to win at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times. Those that show the two major party candidates having probabilities to win between 20% and 80% inclusive will count as swing states.

As of September 22nd, the presidential swing states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia, while the states with competitive races for the U.S. Senate are Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. As you can see, Virginia will be featured every week.

Tonight's edition highlights the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from universities in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
I expect there will be no stories from Ohio this week. According to the latest forecast from Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog, Obama's chances of winning it are more than 80%, so it is no longer eligible. This Wolverine says Hurray!

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