Sep 1, 2022 - News

Iowa professors create tool to help decipher online speak

Illustration of a computer with a shrug emoji on the screen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Social media and texting has its own subtle language and hidden meanings like "riiiiiiiiiight" or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

  • But the meta humor of online speak has mostly been passed over in the academia world. Until now.

Driving the news: Researchers at the University of Iowa have developed a new tool called "PARA" that's meant to help companies identify the sentiment of online communication, like responses to a tweet or Facebook post.

How it works: Most text analysis tools focus on what's being said rather than how something is being conveyed, said UI marketing professor Andrea Luangrath.

  • When we're in-person, body language and facial cues give us non-verbal cues. But in text, emojis; punctuation; capslock; and rhythm are all used to give contextual meaning.
  • PARA identifies non-verbal cues for whatever text is uploaded into the program. It is designed for researchers and marketers, but it's free for anyone to test out.

The bottom line: Maybe it'll help our northern neighbors figure out the difference between, "Sure, the Minnesota State Fair is great," and "Suuuuure, the Minnesota State Fair is great."


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