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Social weather

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2002

The social weather in my apartment today is “mostly happy with a chance of anxiety”. Social weather seems to have a variety of meanings — from talking about weather to tracking economic, political and social indicators, but I prefer the sense in which Clay Shirky is using the term in the description for the course of the same name:

“When you walk into a restaurant, you immediately understand the social weather. It is busy or calm, loud or quiet, people are dining in couples or groups, they are whispering or shouting, and so on. All these things tell you, almost instantly, what the mood of the room is. Reading social weather is a basic human skill.”

He then goes on to talk about how determining the social weather in online spaces is not so easy. In addition to Clay’s class, Alex Halavais will be presenting Blogs and the “social weather” at the Internet Research 3.0 conference in the Netherlands in October:

“This paper describes a small step in this larger project. By measuring changes in word frequency within a large set of popular blogs over a period of four weeks, and comparing these changes to those in the ‘traditional’ media represented on the web, we are able to come to a better understanding of the nature of the content found on these sites. This view is further refined by clustering those blogs that carry similar content. While those who blog may not be very representative of the public at large, charting discourse in this way presents an interesting new window on public opinion.”

So, yeah, don’t forget to check the social weather forecast before you meetup with your smart mob to go warchalking.