The Wildfire like Spread of Information in the Twenty-first Century

In class last week we discussed how fast media can bring attention to certain news or social events such as the super bowl black out. Many people, myself included, who were not watching the game at the exact moment the black out occurred heard about it from some form of ICT. This made me think about the spread of news in this day and age, once something becomes viral it is almost universally known. I recently traveled to South Africa and was working in a small township out side of Cape Town named Langa and the children who lived in the shanty town knew the words to Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe”. This intrigue brought me to an article by Science Daily that discussed a University of Arizona professor Sudha Ram’s experiment on how news spreads on twitter.

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She studied the twitter feeds of 12 major news organizations over six months and analyzed how their information spread. As Ram states “[w]hat we’ve done is use network analysis, which is quite different from just looking at the total number of tweets or total number of retweets. You’re starting to see, over time, how information is spreading.” Her results showed that BBC’s numbers were the highest, then The New York Times, and next Mashable. It was also discovered that no matter how large the reach of a tweet or news story was between around 10 and 72 hours later it would retreat. I felt that this was a very interesting experiment as in the big picture Sudha aimed to use the information to help predict what becomes popular and why, allowing more people to read more information. This would be very helpful in the ICT4D world as people could spread around important  political, social, or environmental news stories. Though it makes me wonder that if one were to figure the magic ratio for instant twitter success would it last, or would people modify their behaviors?

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