Getting Social: Social Media Research Takes Flight at Dalhousie

First Row (left-right): Nathan LaPierre, Anatoliy Gruzd (Director), Madeline Driscoll. Second Row: Catherine McGoveran, Naureen Nizam, Ryan Dyck, Philip Mai (Research Manager), Brittany White, Samantha Fritz.. (Absent from the pic: Sreejata Chatterjee, Tomasz Niewiarowski, Shali Liu, Thomas Robbins and Regina Collins)
Update: Watch CTV Coverage of the Social Media Lab Grand Open House 2013  

Dalhousie University researcher studying social media and online social networks receives a boost with state-of-the-art laboratory; Dalhousie’s Social Media Lab is the first of its kind in Canada.
After two years of planning and construction, the Dalhousie Social Media Lab will officially open its physical door to the public on Friday, March 22, 2013. The lab was founded in 2010 by Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd and is located at the School of Information Management in the Faculty of Management.

“I am very excited to have access to the new research space, latest computer equipment and software. My students and I will now be able to analyze and visualize the social processes and relationships that form on social media as well as create new software tools and apps that reduce the information overload and help people make sense of our networked world.”Anatoliy Gruzd, Associate Professor, School of Information Management, Faculty of Management, and Director of the Dalhousie Social Media Lab

Equipment in the new lab includes high-performance computing servers, touch-enabled all-in-one computers, tablets and a new giant “Magic Wall”, a 96″ multi-touch video wall, perfectly designed for analyzing and visualizing “big data” from social media. This large screen will allow researchers to visualize large-scale social networks made up of millions of actors on a single screen and discover hidden patterns and connections in the data.

Making Sense of a Networked World

Researchers and students working in the lab are studying how social media is changing the ways people communicate and connect online and how these changes impact the social, economic and political norms and structures of modern society. The lab is used to tackle questions like:

  • How does the structure of a social network affect processes such as information dissemination and sharing?
  • What types of online communities exist on social media websites such as Twitter?
  • Do social media websites cause political polarization in Canadian politics?
  • Who cites biomedical literature in the blogosphere and why?

Information gleaned from empirical studies is then used to develop cutting-edge social media analytics tools such as Netlytic, a cloud-based text and social networks analyzer that can automatically summarize large volumes of text and discover social networks from public conversations on social media sites. The general aim of the research work is to provide decision makers with knowledge and insights into the behaviours and relationships of online participants, and to understand how their interpersonal connections influence their personal choices and actions. Social media analytics is one of the fastest-growing areas in the business intelligence and business analytics sector. It involves capturing, measuring, analyzing and interpreting conversations found on social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, blogs, online forums and chats.

First of its kind in Canada

“The new Social Media Lab at the Faculty of Management is a world-class research facility. Work done here will help businesses, government and not-for-profit organizations understand the context of our social interactions online and how these interactions help shape and influence our society.” – Peggy Cunningham, Dean and Professor, Faculty of Management.

This brand new research space at Dalhousie University is the first of its kind in Canada and one of the first social media research labs located at a major university in North America. The lab is made possible with the support of the Dalhousie Faculty of Management and a Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF) Grant awarded to Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT).