No need to geotag, reveal your location by ‘online dialect’

Cultural changes attributed to technology has always interested me, of course it’s hard not to these days. Take the recent coverage of Aflockalypse, and other mysterious mass animal deaths in the US. These are most likely attributed to technology, but not because there is some super microwave emitting weapon sucking power from all the cell phones and redirecting it, but because being more connected makes people more aware. According to the article Technology to blame for animal die-off panic “instant communications — especially when people can whip out smart phones to take pictures of critter carcasses and then post them on the Internet — is giving a skewed view of what is happening in the environment.” So when I saw this article about How tweets reveal where you’re from, I had to read it.

According to the article (which is not about cyber stalking or privacy, which the name seems to hint at), a study revealed that “where you’re from actually deals with how microblogging service reflects regional dialects and slang.” Carnegie Mellon University took a look at this in a study of “9,500 users and 380,000 messages.” During this study they found that, like traditional dialect, without knowing the actual location of these microbloggers, the could identify “regionalisms from spoken speech, such as Southerners’ “y’all” vs. Pittsburghers’ “yinz,” and the regional-based references to soda vs. pop vs. Coke.” And although unlike in real life where we can hear the accent, the study can determine your location within 300 miles because of the way you text, tweet, etc.

"Researchers clustered Twitter users based on the regional terms they included in their tweets. This map shows how tweets were clustered to reflect different characteristic regions, including Northern and Southern California, Chicago, the Lake Erie region, Boston, New York, Washington, Northern vs. Southern states, and Florida."

But why is this cool? According to the team, “The study shows that people continue to develop new ways of using language, regardless of whether they’re talking over lunch or exchanging messages on Twitter;” and shows that technology is having a direct impact on cultural evolution. The team is presenting their findings at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Pittsburgh, you can get a copy of their work here.