Friday, July 24, 2015

Text Mining: Lafayette Shooting

Today I learned that Zayn Malik may be coming back to One Direction.  That's not the point of this post, but unfortunately, more on that later.

This morning I noticed that the #Lafayetteshooting hashtag was getting a lot of action, and at least on my Twitter timeline, the talk was skewed towards a gun control conversation.  I've heard two kinds of accusations around this, that people are either too willing or not willing enough to talk about gun control after a mass shooting.

People are obviously talking gun control already, but can we quantify it?  Hey, that code I've been kicking around the last couple of days could help...


I downloaded tweets from mid-afternoon today regarding the Lafayette shooting from yesterday.  I created a word cloud to get a sense of common words.  Like I suspected, frequent words centered around "gun" .. and ... national tequila day? What?

If gun control is such a large part of our conversation, then it should easily segregate into topics.  So I ran a CTM analysis:

The topics above can be summarized generally in this way:
  1. Focuses on facts of the shooting: gunman's name, media reports, etc.
  2. Focuses on emotional reactions: victims, prayers, thoughts, tragedy, etc.
  3. Focuses on:  .. national tequila day.. and Zayn Malik.  WHAT?  Ok this is something that happens on twitter, people hijack popular hashtags and use them for their own purposes.  FYI, Zayn isn't coming back to OD, it's just a silly rumor.
  4. Focuses on gun control: specifically "yet another mass killing, need more gun control."
  5. Focuses on gun control:  though many of the tweets are anti-gun control.
  6. Focuses on mental health issues: mental, illness, lone, white, gunmen.
  7. This is a low frequency topic, that focuses on general facts of the case, theater, movie, Lafayette, etc.


Using a posterior estimate, I can estimate what portion of tweets are on gun control by adding topics four and five, and that's roughly a third.  So effectively, the day after this mass shooting, we see that about a third of the conversation has to do with gun control. Closer to 40%, if we remove Zayn Malike and National Tequila day. 

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