A Columbia University professor and former Chicago social worker is attempting to create an algorithm that will mine social media to try and determine who might be the next victim or perpetrator of violence in Chicago.
Desmond Patton told WBEZ in a recent interview that he hopes his efforts will be able to offer support to young people who are exposed to Chicago’s epidemic of violence. He said many young people are killed over things they post online via social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Patton even goes so far as to offer analysis of how things like emojis—the little colorful character faces so common online and in texting—can play into a deadly unfolding of events.
He also says residents from certain neighborhoods might use a kind of online code when talking online that only locals would understand, calling it an “anthropological” approach to examining the communication around the city’s violence problem.
As an example, Patton uses a well-known gang member, killed on the city’s South Side in 2014, who used to tweet about her feelings of pain and not being understood.
He thinks if someone saw those tweets and addressed her emotional concerns, maybe that someone could have helped her.