Twitter 'heat maps' track national mood
The technology used to create "heat maps" that track sentiment on Twitter may have uses in politics and business, its inventors say.
California-based Silicon Graphics International (SGI) trialled the technology during November's US presidential elections and October's Hurricane Sandy.
The map, dubbed a "Twitter heartbeat", works by glowing blue if a significant amount of positive sentiment is expressed about a certain subject, or red if negative.
During the US presidential election, the map showed when Twitter users were talking about Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, which area of the country they were in, and whether or not they were speaking positively about the candidates.
During Hurricane Sandy it mapped the obvious negative sentiment on the east of coast of America, where the hurricane struck landfall.
But it also discovered positive sentiment as people on America's west coast heard that their relatives were safe.
SGI's Franz Aman says the technology has a number of potential applications elsewhere, including helping companies track feedback on their products.
It could also have uses in domestic politics.
Mr Aman pointed to the Obama administration's successful collection of thousands of small financial campaign contributions, achieved partly by asking willing Twitter users.
"We've certainly seen in the US and other parts of the world, participation (with politics) is happening online now," Mr Aman told AAP.
"The ability to motivate people on a grand scale and in real-time understand what's going on is pretty amazing."
Social media monitoring is a rapid growth area, with scientists and experts around the world racing to develop efficient ways to track and analyse what's being said on publicly-available websites.
The Australian government's lead science agency, the CSIRO, is currently trialling two new software packages to monitor the contents of tweets.
The first tool is called Emergency Situational Awareness (ESA) and is designed to give emergency services early warning about disasters by highlighting when words such as "fire" or "earthquake" are tweeted.
The second, called Vizie, is being used to monitor the content of Twitter conversations and trends, to see if a positive or negative sentiment is being expressed.