Seismologists Turn Toward Social Sites To Gain Alternative Read On Earthquakes

Helping to better understand activity patterns, some seismologists informally monitor chatter from colleagues and friends that spread across social sites like Facebook, as well as publicly available videos that people upload to YouTube.

The latest earthquake struck Sunday in Mexicali just south of the Mexico and California border in Baja. Kaelynn, in the middle of making a video in her room in San Diego, Calif., allowed the video camera to run as she abandoned the front of the computer screen and spotlight to find cover as the earth shook. The camera captured the shaking. She uploaded the video to YouTube.

“We watch YouTube clips posted by members,” Hough says. “We’re looking for indications of fault ruptures, and some of the social network sites can turn things up more quickly than scientists can.”

Aside from videos similar to this one seismologist study, Hough monitors and reads correspondence between friends on Facebook, who often talk about scientific issues.

Hough points to social networks as a form of online “water cooler,” where friends and colleagues in remote areas gather to check in on personal and business issues. The tactic to monitor these social sites “informally” has developed “organically” as Facebook and YouTube continue to develop and become platforms for those who have something to say.

Seismologists may monitor social network and video sites informally, but don’t expect them to become part of the process to analyze seismic activity “in an organized way,” because it’s difficult to integrate these sites into an official monitoring process, Hough says.

Another use of social networking sites.


Author: Dewita

Co-founder Ecotwist Labs.

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