The spread of ideas in the age of the Internet is a double-edged sword; it can enhance our collective welfare as well as produce forces that can destabilize the world. This project aims at understanding the process by which the impact of a single event or idea disperses throughout the world over time and space. Dramatic events, especially when reported through the new media of cyberspace, have the potential to transform ideas into realities, in ways that can either inform or inflame the public passions. This project seeks to map both the geography and the chronology of ideas over cyberspace, as the ripples of information usage radiate outward from a given event epicenter. By mapping and analyzing such ripples, new insights will be provided into the role of new media in biasing, accelerating, impeding, or otherwise influencing personal, social and political uses of such information.
This project will form a new multidisciplinary research framework in connecting social science and computer science for analyzing the dynamic information landscape on the Internet. The creation of Visualizing Information Space In Ontological Networks (VISION) prototype will upgrade traditional “data mining” methods to advanced “information mining” approaches. This project will continue for four years collecting and analyzing data and thereby developing a theoretical structure on the spread of ideas.