Socio-Political Use of Big Data
Here's a quick summary of how the study worked and what they found:
>> Studied Variables: diurnal rhythm, mobility patterns, and communication styles
>> Data Set: we examine a country-scale publicly articulated social media dataset, where we quantify individual behavioral features from over 145 million geo-located messages distributed among more than 340 different Spanish economic regions, inferred by computing communities of cohesive mobility fluxes
>> Results: Our results show that cost-effective economical indicators can be built based on publicly-available social media datasets.
Some academics had an interesting idea to analyze twitter utterances by these variables, by region, according to formulas. I suspect it won't wipe out the Conference Board job numbers any time soon, unless Spain uses this data to solve its unemployment problem within the year.
But these kinds of studies can be refined, and replicated so they are proven to be accurate, and only then they can give us reliable data. Otherwise, they don't work and don't add to what we know, and don't contribute to policy and what problems we can solve. They are academic exercises for tenure or dissertations.
These researchers are a long way off from proving anything, but time will bring forth more of these studies. Harnessing big data for policy making is a good idea.