5847 Mapping Ideas from Cyberspace to Realspace with Geospatial Fingerprints

Saturday, February 18, 2012: 1:30 PM
Ballroom A (VCC West Building)
Ming-Hsiang Tsou , San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
The world today is constantly awash with a flood of ideas, and the diffusion of these ideas and concepts now leaves measurable traces in cyberspace that can be mapped onto realspace and in real time. This presentation introduces a new methodology for web search and web content analysis, called Spatial Web Automatic Reasoning and Mapping System (SWARMS) (http://mappingideas.sdsu.edu), to track ideas, events, and trends disseminated in cyberspace (the web) and social networks.  This research method integrates GIScience, computational linguistics, and web search engines to track and analyze web page content identified by clusters of keywords. The search results were mapped with real world coordinates (by geolocating their IP addresses, URLs, or gazetteers). The resulting maps represented web information landscapes consisting of hundreds of populated web pages searched by selected keywords with time stamps. By utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and visualization methods, researchers can visualize the spread of concepts and the density of related web pages on a real world map over time and space. By analyzing multiple web information landscapes with kernel density methods and map algebra tools, web information landscapes may reveal important "geospatial fingerprints" for selected keywords reflecting semantic constructs. Geospatial fingerprints are defined as unique spatial patterns (e.g., clusters) of information landscapes associated with different keywords or concepts.  The revealed geospatial fingerprints and spatial patterns may illustrate hidden semantic and context meanings associated with the search keywords. This approach will provide a new research direction for social scientists to study human thoughts and behaviors, global web content, and internet communication theories from a new perspective. The spatial-temporal analysis of web content can help us to understand the diversity of human concepts on a global scale, and can be applied to many fields, including marketing, homeland security, public policy, and public health. A better understanding of the spatial and temporal dynamics of the "collective thinking of human beings" over the Internet could lead to improved comprehension of the factors behind those ideas. This is important in reducing misunderstandings and strategizing how to address controversies and conflicts in the world.