Theses Doctoral

Identification and Characterization of Events in Social Media

Becker, Hila

Millions of users share their experiences, thoughts, and interests online, through social media sites (e.g., Twitter, Flickr, YouTube). As a result, these sites host a substantial number of user-contributed documents (e.g., textual messages, photographs, videos) for a wide variety of events (e.g., concerts, political demonstrations, earthquakes). In this dissertation, we present techniques for leveraging the wealth of available social media documents to identify and characterize events of different types and scale. By automatically identifying and characterizing events and their associated user-contributed social media documents, we can ultimately offer substantial improvements in browsing and search quality for event content.
To understand the types of events that exist in social media, we first characterize a large set of events using their associated social media documents. Specifically, we develop a taxonomy of events in social media, identify important dimensions along which they can be categorized, and determine the key distinguishing features that can be derived from their associated documents. We quantitatively examine the computed features for different categories of events, and establish that significant differences can be detected across categories. Importantly, we observe differences between events and other non-event content that exists in social media. We use these observations to inform our event identification techniques.
To identify events in social media, we follow two possible scenarios. In one scenario, we do not have any information about the events that are reflected in the data. In this scenario, we use an online clustering framework to identify these unknown events and their associated social media documents. To distinguish between event and non-event content, we develop event classification techniques that rely on a rich family of aggregate cluster statistics, including temporal, social, topical, and platform-centric characteristics. In addition, to tailor the clustering framework to the social media domain, we develop similarity metric learning techniques for social media documents, exploiting the variety of document context features, both textual and non-textual.
In our alternative event identification scenario, the events of interest are known, through user-contributed event aggregation platforms (e.g., events, EventBrite, Facebook events). In this scenario, we can identify social media documents for the known events by exploiting known event features, such as the event title, venue, and time. While this event information is generally helpful and easy to collect, it is often noisy and ambiguous. To address this challenge, we develop query formulation strategies for retrieving event content on different social media sites. Specifically, we propose a two-step query formulation approach, with a first step that uses highly specific queries aimed at achieving high-precision results, and a second step that builds on these high-precision results, using term extraction and frequency analysis, with the goal of improving recall. Importantly, we demonstrate how event-related documents from one social media site can be used to enhance the identification of documents for the event on another social media site, thus contributing to the diversity of information that we identify.
The number of social media documents that our techniques identify for each event is potentially large. To avoid overwhelming users with unmanageable volumes of event information, we design techniques for selecting a subset of documents from the total number of documents that we identify for each event. Specifically, we aim to select high-quality, relevant documents that reflect useful event information. For this content selection task, we experiment with several centrality-based techniques that consider the similarity of each event-related document to the central theme of its associated event and to other social media documents that correspond to the same event. We then evaluate both the relative and overall user satisfaction with the selected social media documents for each event.
The existing tools to find and organize social media event content are extremely limited. This dissertation presents robust ways to organize and filter this noisy but powerful event information. With our event identification, characterization, and content selection techniques, we provide new opportunities for exploring and interacting with a diverse set of social media documents that reflect timely and revealing event content. Overall, the work presented in this dissertation provides an essential methodology for organizing social media documents that reflect event information, towards improved browsing and search for social media event data.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Computer Science
Thesis Advisors
Gravano, Luis
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 26, 2017