Using Social Media to Track and Analyze Natural Disasters: The Hurricane Sandy Test


Hurricane Sandy

When: Monday, Feb. 4th, 12noon

Where: Harvard Law School, WCC 3018

 Lunch will be served!

Join us for a lunchtime presentation and discussion with Dr. Arthur Cosby, the William L. Giles Distinguished Professor at MississippiState University and Director of Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center, who is working with a team of colleagues to develop software that uses social media as a source of scientific data to track natural disasters. In the fall of 2012, the software was beta tested with Super Storm Sandy.

The resilience of social media in the face of storm events and power failures makes it a particularly useful tool during major disasters. Dr. Cosby’s project collected over 4.5 million tweets and an estimated 400,000 images of the storm and its aftermath.

The application of this software has important implications for law and policy as we prepare for increasingly severe weather events in the years ahead. The software has myriad other uses for a range of investigations as social media utilization continues to increase, but there are also policy concerns relating to privacy as well as potential responsibility of researchers employing this information to assist those in imminent danger. This will be an exciting conversation about the intersection of technology, climate change, and public policy.

Dr. Cosby has numerous publications and presentations in the area of “public sociology,” as well as a long-term interest in research innovations for social science research. His work applies social science knowledge to real-world problems, and his research program has been supported by various agencies and foundations, including the American Cancer Society; the Department of Homeland Security; the National Institute of Education; the National Institutes of Health; the National Science Foundation; the Office of Rural Health Policy (HRSA); the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and the U. S. Department of Agriculture, as well as numerous state agencies. Dr. Cosby is currently focusing on the emergence of new sources of data that provide special challenges for social science research and application.

This event is cosponsored by the Mississippi Delta Project, the Cyberlaw Clinic, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Environmental Law Society, the Journal of Law and Technology, and the National Security Journal.


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