Researchers from the Australian science organisation CSIRO have developed an online tool called ‘We Feel‘ which analyses the words from millions of tweets to create a real-time representation of our emotions.
The tool, developed for the Black Dog Institute in partnership with Amazon Web Services, will help researchers understand how emotions fluctuate over time due to changes in social, economic and environmental factors such as weather, time of day, news of a natural disaster or announcements about the economy.
We Feel will help Black Dog Institute’s researchers verify whether the large and fast sample of information coming from Twitter can accurately map our emotions.
It is hoped the tool could help to understand how our collective mood changes, help monitor community mental health and predict where services needed to be assigned.
“We Feel looks for up to 600 specific words in a stream of around 27 million tweets per day and maps them to a hierarchy of emotions which includes love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness and fear,” research Leader in language and social computing at CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship Dr Cecile Paris said.
“You can explore emotional trends on a minute by minute time scale, across locations around the globe and gender to further refine the results.”
Professor Helen Christensen, Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute said the We Feel program represented the world’s first foray into understanding how social media can be used to detect poor mental health and observe shifts according to time and place.
“The power of this information cannot be underestimated,” Professor Christensen said.
“Currently, mental health researchers and associated public health programs use population data that can be over five years old.
“Should the real-time data gained using this incredible tool prove accurate, we will have the unique opportunity to monitor the emotional state of people across different geographical areas and ultimately predict when and where potentially life-saving services are required.”
The tool has already picked up a spike in the public’s emotional response to last week’s Budget and will continue to collect data which will be analysed by Black Dog’s researchers.
If you are feeling depressed, you can call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.
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