A person using digital communication leaves behind a trail of information on their activities, their interactions, and even some about who they are. Social media has become quintessential to the modern lives of billions of people which means that billions of trails are recorded on social media and communications platforms. This data has come to be a treasure trove of aggregated information which scientists can use to decipher the most unique trends and behaviors on a societal level. As part of her ongoing research at ASA, Elena Rovenskaya presented on the significance of social media as a source of information for science and its usefulness in understanding complex systems behaviors.

On 10 and 11 March 2023, University of Florence hosted the virtual Third Digital Day event held in partnership with the Harvard Law School Association in Europe. The event this year, themed At the Roots of Digitalisation: A New World or Renewed World, brought together academic experts, stakeholders, and policymakers from 57 organizations from over 16 different countries to discuss the thematic trends and transformations which have modernized and digitized society from a perspective of law and science.

Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) Program Director Elena Rovenskaya presented case studies of ASA’s latest work which has utilized the data available from social media platforms to assess the patterns of societal behavior. Her first case study discussed Yandex’s Self-Isolation Index, whereby data collected from the multi-product digital platform ecosystem (Yandex) revealed a statistically significant relationship between new COVID-19 infections in Moscow and the reduced levels of ‘urban activity’ as individuals isolated from daily activities involving physical interactions with others. She presented two more cases into the shifting perceptions of security across the world using Google and Twitter data, and the dynamics of conspiracy theory proliferations using a data set of over 1.2 million Tweets from 2021 to 2022. Using these case studies, Rovenskaya pointed out the usefulness of data from social media for scientific research for systems analysis and explained the need and benefits of maintaining such open-source access to information.

Michael Obersteiner, Director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, and Principal Research Scholar in the IIASA Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) Program also presented at the event. His presentation focused on the opportunities from digitalization for planetary computing and research into natural ecosystem management using examples of studies conducted at the Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land, and Energy (FABLE) consortium.

Overall, the forum provided a unique opportunity for dialogue between scientists, law experts, and corporate stakeholders with several topics evaluating the intersections between digitization and development in climate change adaptation. We thank Dr. Ettore Lombardi for inviting IIASA to participate in such excellent transdisciplinary discussions.

To read more about the event and its participants, click here.

To read more on the research presented by Elena Rovenskaya click Case 3,
(Case 1 & Case 2 forthcoming papers) and view the presentation here.

To access Fable’s publications, access their knowledge hub here.


Climate Change and Social Media Cover

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What can social media tell us about public views on climate change?

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IIASA at the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference 2024

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