Twitter Inc. is financing a laboratory at MIT to build a new social network platform and mobile app suite that looks to connect people and solve the problems that plague society. The site is giving MIT’s Media Lab $10 million over the course of four years for what it calls the Laboratory for Social Machines that will study Twitter, as well as other social networks, it announced Wednesday.
MIT's new research lab will develop mobile apps and “new platforms” meant to “identify, discuss and act on pressing societal problems," the school said in a news release. The lab will also study existing social networks like Twitter and Facebook, as well as new ones like Ello, to detect patterns in “mass media, social media… and digital content,” the school says.
"We'll be building technologies and tools to make sense of what's happening on the existing networks and to make use of their capacity to help people and organizations come together and collaborate on societal problems," said Russell Stevens, a research strategist with MIT's Laboratory for Social Machines.
The research will help solve “complex societal issues” by learning “the role Twitter and other platforms play” in communication, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said in a statement. Twitter will provide MIT with access to a live stream of tweets and a complete archive of every tweet in history, including the first one sent by company co-founder Jack Dorsey.
just setting up my twttr
— Jack (@jack) March 21, 2006
“The Laboratory for Social Machines will experiment in areas of public communication and social organization where humans and machines collaborate on problems that can’t be solved manually or through automation alone,” Deb Roy, Twitter’s head media scientist and MIT Media Lab associate professor, said in the release.
Twitter announced in August that it had reached 271 million active monthly users, well short of Facebook's 1.32 billion. The microblogging site intends to benefit from the research but will not directly influence what’s studied. MIT says the new research lab will operate completely independently of Twitter.