Twitter Campaign Turns London Eye Into Olympic-Sized Mood Ring

A Blog About the Olympic Games
July 23 2012 3:26 PM

Twitter Campaign Turns London Eye Into Olympic-Sized Mood Ring

London Eye
The London Eye's Twitter-fueled Olympics light show.

Photo by WILL OLIVER/AFP/GettyImages

If you want to know how people are feeling about the 2012 Olympic Games, just watch that giant Ferris wheel that looms over the River Thames in London. Once a night, the London Eye will light up in a pattern that reflects the prevailing sentiment about the games among Twitter users that day. Positive tweets will turn the thing yellow, negative ones purple.

If it sounds like an epic MIT student prank crossed with a bizarre corporate social media campaign, that’s because that’s pretty much what it is. EDF Energy, a major UK energy company and sponsor of the London Eye, hired a team of MIT engineers to develop an algorithm that scans Olympics-related tweets and assigns them points based on the intensity of positive or negative sentiment expressed therein. If the tweets are, say, 75 percent positive, the London Eye will turn 75 percent yellow.  

Advertisement

How does it know what tweets are positive? According to the Telegraph, the algorithm checks the tweets against a library of some 2,750 words and phrases, including emoticons and non-standard English expressions like “omg” and, uh, “totes amazeballs.” Punctuation marks and intensifiers like “very” get factored in as well.

Given all of the snafus that have surfaced in the weeks leading up to the games, you’d think purple might predominate, at least until the actual events begin. But so far yellow has seemed to have the upper hand. (The light shows actually began Thursday night—you can watch them online here or here.)

“I bet the sentiment analysis for the ‘London Eye Twitter lightshow’ is REALLY GOOD at detecting sarcasm,” one wag tweeted.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.