Modeling Information Precursors for Event Forecasting

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation is focused on the design and evaluation of machine learning algorithms for modeling information precursors for use in event modeling and forecasting. Given an online stream of information (e.g., news articles, social media postings), how can we model and understand how events unfold, how they influence each other, and how they can act as determinants of future events?

First, we study information reciprocity in joint news and social media streams to capture how events evolve. We present an online story chaining algorithm which links related news articles together in a low complexity manner and a mechanism to classify the interaction between a news article and social media (Twitter) activity into four categories. This is followed by identification of major information sources for a given story chain based on the interaction states of news and Twitter. We demonstrate through this study that Twitter as a social network platform serves as a fast way to draw attention from the public to many social events such as sports, whereas news media is quicker to report events regarding political, economical, and business issues.

In the second problem we focus on forecasting and understanding large-scale societal events from open source datasets. Our goal here is to develop algorithms that can automatically reconstruct precursors to societal events. We develop a nested framework involving multi-instance learning for mining precursors by harnessing temporal constraints. We evaluate the proposed model for various event categories in multiple geo-locations with comprehensive experiments.

Next, to reinforce the fact that events are typically inter-connected and influenced by events in other locations, we develop an approach that creates personalized models for exploring spatio-temporal event correlations; this approach also helps tackle data/label sparsity problems across geolocations.

Finally, this dissertation demonstrates how our algorithms can be used to study key characteristics of mass events such as protests. Some mass gatherings run the risk of turning violent, causing damage to both property and people. We propose a tailored solution for uncovering triggers from both news media and social media for violent event analysis.

This work was partially supported by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) via Department of Interior National Business Center (DoI/NBC) contract number D12PC000337, the Office of Naval Research under contract N00014-16-C-1054, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under Grant Award Number 2017-ST-061-CINA01. The US Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental purposes notwithstanding any copyright annotation thereon. The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the author and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of NSF, IARPA, DoI/NBC, or the US Government.

Information Reciprocity, Precursor Learning, Event Modeling, Event Forecasting