On 29 August 2011, Hervé St-Louis visited the Twitter campus in California and gave a private talk on his Master’s thesis completed recently at the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies (CMSS) at the University of Calgary (UCalgary).
The title of my thesis is “Strategic Studies and Cyberspace: Iranian Political Unrest on Twitter.” It is about the 2009 presidential crisis in Iran (#iranelection) that led Iranians who were protesting the electoral results to use Twitter to denounce their government. Similar events have since occurred in countries like Libya and Egypt. I was already studying Iranian bloggers when the crisis started in June 2009, so my first reflex was to grab the data about the tweets and figure them out later. In all, I read and analyzed over 8,000 tweets from a sample of 50,000. My thesis offers a blueprint on how to study these types of crises in Cyberspace with a strong research methodology.
For those not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging platform where messages are limited to 140 characters. Twitter was created for people to easily exchange quick messages with one another on the Web.
I originally met people from Twitter at a previous visit to Silicon Valley. On the day of my convocation @UCalgary, their representative, Nancy, invited me to come over and give a private talk on my research whenever I could.
@Twitter, I met some of the developers who worked on the original Farsi to English translation script for Google way back in 2009 that was used by non-Iranians during the crisis to show support for Iranians protesting the #iranelection. We butted heads on some interpretations of the data related to their translation engine – it was great to be able to speak to the actual people who enabled me to work through all the data I collected for my research.
The Twitter campus in San Francisco is filled with dynamic and smart people. Twitter is fully aware that its micro-blogging platform is affecting a lot of people. On Twitter, one can get the pulse of what people are talking about, instantly. Nancy, my host @Twitter, told me that there have been studies done that showed that Twitter was more accurate at predicting elections results than traditional polling methods.
Many people don’t get Twitter and think it’s about people posting updates about their cats. It’s really about what you make it to be. On Twitter, I’ve discovered a bunch of interesting people with distinct things to say. It’s also a great collaboration tool, when you’re looking for an expert on something and just ask out of the blue. I get most of my news from Twitter. You can follow and be followed on Twitter. Most people have open accounts which means that if you go on a rant (I do that often), everyone sees it and can respond.
Right now, I’m back in Calgary working as an instructional designer and making tons of mobile apps for my employer and for myself. Calgary is not Silicon Valley but it’s probably one of the few Canadian cities with a vibe similar to the San Francisco Bay area. CMSS is a cool place because it allowed a total geek to apply strategic thought to something real and something that really left a mark on history. I was also able to use many great resources available @UCalgary during my studies. If you want to read more about my research on Twitter and Iran, be sure to visit canarycoal.com