Twitter employs sentiment analysis to try and predict who will win at the Oscars
Can Twitter predict the winners at this year’s Academy Awards? Well, the company is trying to find out, with the launch of a special web app designed to track Twitter users’ sentiment surrounding the nominees in some of the major categories.
The company as taken out and dusted off its 2012 Presidential Election tracking system, which it developed with the real-time search company Topsy, to monitor and report on how we’re discussing this year’s awards.
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To save time and (perhaps) its sanity the company is only tracking the nominees across six of the major categories this year – Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Director – which amounts to a total of 34 individual actors, directors, and film nominees.
Twitter and Topsy will track mentions of each of these over the next six weeks and analyse how positively or negatively these nominees are discussed on the social site. Positive mentions will be plotted on Topsy’s special Oscars graph, which Twitter says will “[reflect the] ebb and flow of the movie-related conversations throughout the awards season.”
Can Twitter predict the results?
Of course the people who are tweeting about the nominees aren’t the same people who will be voting for the actual winners – Twitter points this out by saying that news events and other media stories can affect conversations about the nominees. Twitter says “After Amour won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes on Sunday, positive buzz noticeably increased.”
Not only that but sentiment analysis is an inexact science at the moment. Most engines can’t distinguish between genuine tweets and users that are being sarcastic, so it’s best not to take the results too literally. Although Twitter does make the valid point that the index gives some indication of the opinion of film fans, to go along with the opinions of critics, judges, and the media.
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And those fans are reporting that it will be a tight race this year. Of the nominees for Best Picture (at the time of writing) Silver Linings Playbook has a narrow lead against Les Misérables but Life of Pi, Argo, Django Unchained and Lincon are all contenders with positive sentiments of over 90%. Only Zero Dark Thirty looks to be out of the running, as far as film fans are concerned, with just 6.5%.
The Best Actor category is equally tight but Daniel Day-Lewis edges ahead with a narrow 2%. Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence are the fans’ picks for Best Actress, with just 0.5% between them.
Things are a little clearer when it comes to the Best Supporting Actor category, Christoph Waltz is ahead with 95% but Alan Arkin could provide some competition, having risen 20 percentage points in just three days.
Three actresses are possible winners for Best Supporting Actress, according to the analysis. Sally Field is the narrow favourite, but Anne Hathaway and Amy Adams are a close second and third, respectively.
The Best Director category is the hardest to judge. While there is no out-and-out winner Steven Spielberg has overtaken Michael Haneke as the fans’ favourite but this one is too open to make a clear call.
We’ll just have to wait six weeks to see how right Twitter users are.