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Interactive Coronavirus Twitter Map Launched By UCI Research Team

An interactive coronavirus map, created by UCI computer science professor Chen Li and his research team, was officially launched on April 8. The map tracks the country’s discourse surrounding COVID-19 by allowing users to enter key search terms, such as #mask or #stayhome, in a Google-like search bar which correlates to a map that displays a visual representation of tweets about that topic.

The six-person research team consists of Li; Ph.D. students Sadeem Alsudais, Qiushi Bai and Yicong Huang; and undergraduate students Shiqi Wu and Tiancheng “Joseph” Zheng. For years, Li’s research team worked on building efficient systems for people to visualize and analyze social media. The onset of the pandemic inspired the team to utilize their work and experience to assist researchers and connect people. 

“When the COVID-19 pandemic started to bring undesired changes to our daily lives, we wanted to do something that could help people get through these difficult times,” Bai said. “Then we created this project called ’Coronavirus Twitter Map.’”

According to the official website, the system is powered by CloudBerry, a general-purpose middleware system, and Apache AsterixDB, a Big Data Management System. 

“Through this powerful system, a user can visualize millions of COVID-19 related tweets drawn as small blue dots on a U.S. map,” Bai said. “By typing keywords in a Google-like search bar, zooming and dragging the map or tuning the temporal bar, [users] can also analyze the tweets in spatial and temporal dimensions.”

The website states that users can move their cursor over a dot on the map and immediately see the content of the tweet. Data collection on COVID-19 related tweets started January 2020, with current tweets appending and uploaded in real time to the database. 

The system is already being used by a National Science Foundation-funded research project led by UCI professors Suellen Hopfer and Gloria Mark. The team hopes their map will further COVID-19 research and keep users informed. 

“We hope this powerful system can help researchers gain insights from social media responses to this pandemic, which might boost their research and finally benefit all people like ourselves,” Bai said.

The Coronavirus Twitter Map can be viewed here

Esme Park is a Contributing Writer. She can be reached at esmep@uci.edu