Mission

We believe emerging interactive Internet tools and platforms have unprecedented potential for revolutionary changes in how we work, play, explore, and live together. The University of Washington Social Media Lab (SoMe Lab @ UW) is intended as an interdisciplinary space for collaborating on projects and sharing what we’re learning about these tools, their interactions, and their consequences.

Just as the development of the highway system created more flexible and lower cost transportation pathways — but also brought with it unforeseen social consequences — the new social media ecosystem radically lowers the costs to create and maintain social networks, share content, collaborate, and even organize collective action. As an information system, it is unmatched in volume, speed, and reach. As a socio-technical system, it is malleable and not amenable to centralized control. Its complexity challenges both academics and other professionals to re-examine how we curate and analyze big data and apply information to practical problems.

People

The SoMe Lab brings together an interdisciplinary network of researchers who are interested in social media research methods and the impact, opportunities, and consequences of the emerging and dynamic information ecosystem. Our network includes researchers from computer and information science, political and social sciences, statistics, and business.

Support

The SoMe Lab has been supported by grants and gifts from the National Science Foundation, Microsoft Research, and Amazon Web Services.

History

Founded in 2011 by Shawn Walker, Jeff Hemsley, Josef Eckert, and Robert M. Mason, the SoMe Lab initially was intended to lower barriers for researchers who wanted to investigate information flows across social media. SoMe Lab researchers envisioned transformative research frameworks to understand better how new social media communities form and engage in public discourse that might empower grassroots efforts working toward greater social and economic justice. The first effort involved collecting tweets related to the Occupy Movement.

Social media allowed individuals involved in the Occupy Movement to tell their stories in ways that mainstream media could not, or would not. Each tweet, like, blog post, and video shared within and between social media platforms related to a personal story that reflected what was happening in real time: a port closed, protesters pepper spayed, a midnight camp raid. An early effort of the SoMe Lab was the development of analytic tools and methods that enabled us to visualize, and thus to better understand, the dynamic flow of this movement’s energy and information across geography and time.

This stream of research continues, but SoMe Lab researchers have broadened the scope of the Lab's work to include research on a diverse set of topics. Examples include use of social media in crises and disasters, the spread of misinformation on social media, and the formation and growth of social networks.

Sponsors

National Science Foundation
Microsoft Research