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Social media search and newsgathering tool gets 10 million Euros in research funding

City University London is collaborating on a new European Commission Seventh Framework Programme research project known as SocialSensor.
by Luke Nava

A new 10 million Euros research project is promising to make it easier for both businesses and consumers to search the growing amount of multimedia content created by users of online social networks. It could have important implications on how journalists find sources for stories on the web and integrate this information into traditional reporting.

The project, titled SocialSensor, is a collaboration between City University London and 10 other organisations, including Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Welle, IBM and Yahoo! It was among a handful of projects out of 127 submissions to be selected for funding under the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

City researchers will work on developing a software platform that can crawl and analyse multimedia user generated content (UGC), combine it with professional content and make it searchable for commercial users such as journalists. It will also recommend, deliver and present this content to consumers, depending on their personal preferences and contextual information such as their location.

The project is a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary collaboration at City. As Principal Investigator, Dr AysŸe Göker, a Senior Academic in the Department of Information Science, will lead one of the project's 10 work packages, looking specifically at social search. Meanwhile Steve Schifferes, Professor of Financial Journalism in the Department of Journalism, will explore one of two use cases for the platform - news gathering and publishing. The other use case is infotainment.

Dr Göker says: "The ubiquity of connected devices and social networking has created a huge amount of textual and multimedia UGC, such as camera 'phone pictures and video, which is continually being updated.

"For developers, journalists and consumers this has resulted in a new challenge - how do you search this large volume of data to find relevant content as it is created? SocialSensor will address this problem, by developing search tools that can operate in real-time and provide context-aware results, dependent on factors such as the user's location, interests and whether they are using a desktop PC or mobile device."

Professor Schifferes adds: "Recent events such as the Arab Spring and Japanese earthquake highlight the huge role that citizens now play in newsgathering, as well as the significance of connected devices and social networks in reporting news to the public. These developments are transforming the role of journalists and the way news organisations work.

"SocialSensor will create a platform that enables this trend to develop in two important ways: helping journalists to identify, visualise and verify significant stories from social media sources including pictures and video content; and helping to improve the distribution of personalised news to consumers through the use of reputation management and social networks."

The project will run for three years and the 10 organisations that City will collaborate with are: Universitaet Klagenfurt, Austria; Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs and JCP-Consult, France; Deutsche Welle, the Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany; Athens Technology Center and Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH), Greece; IBM Research Haifa, Israel; and Yahoo! Iberia, Spain.

Further information is available at www.socialsensor.eu or via the project's Facebook and Twitter pages.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.