The Social Media Analysis and Creation Lab – or SMAC Lab – has overcome construction delays and is finally complete and open. Located in the basement of Hodges Hall, the space will serve as a hub for analyzing and creating social media content.
The SMAC lab will be a tool focused on the fastest-growing form of mass communication: social media. Featuring moveable t-walls, a touch screen control table, and screen walls, the lab will be used by faculty, mass communication general classes, student media, and speciality courses to track and analyze social media content, as well as create their own content and conduct academic research.
Supported by Harvard’s top of the line Crimson Hexagon software, the SMAC Lab will serve as a lab-teaching environment, a research lab and a working space for students and faculty. Users will be able to program social media content via a live studio feed broadcast to screens in the Holliday Forum, so the SMAC Lab can provide visualizations of social media content related to Manship classes and events as they are happening. With a probable soft-opening to occur during the summer, the lab should be available for general use from August onwards.
“The idea is people will be pulling up types of visualizations on the table and throwing those to other screens, whether it’s here or over in that building,” Porter said in reference to the potential for the table to interact with screens in the Manship building.
Porter said he wanted touch-screen technology based on the advice of people running a lab similar to LSU’s at Clemson, who pointed out how students immediately want to interact by touch and will do so regardless of the technology’s interface. Some of the content they will be interacting with on the table and throughout the SMAC Lab will come from Twitter, though the goal is to expand to all social media.
“You see all the time those kinds of reports. ‘According to Twitter, most people don’t like this.’ What does that even mean?” said Porter.
Further progress includes the installation of Crimson Hexagon social media analytics software, which can help users in the SMAC Lab uncover some of that meaning. The software allows users to track levels of conversation and sentiment, and look at visualizations in real time as things are happening.
Even though construction is complete, the SMAC Lab may never be a finished product. Whereas many universities are tied to one piece of software, Porter said he views Crimson Hexagon as a centerpiece for a suite of software suggested by students and faculty who use the space.
“I want that kind of interaction,” said Porter. “
“If there’s something cool that’s going on in social media whether it be analysis or research, we want to be playing with it here.”