Technology Empowering U.S. Diplomacy and Development



A lab that provides data-centric models and tools for research, publication, and cultural production on the Middle East.

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Latest Activity: Oct 24, 2011

New R-Shief Web Site Tracks Arab Public Opinion in Real Time

The new site provides real-time analysis of opinion in the Arab world about late-breaking issues.

R-Shief uses an interactive map to allow users to slice through aggregate web, Facebook, Twitter, and other data in order to analyze what Arabs are saying about the issues that impact them. Users can see which posts are gaining the most traction and which topics are dominating the chatter on Twitter and Facebook. R-Shief provides this analysis by sorting through thousands of Twitter feeds and other sources and using multiple search criteria to determine the most talked-about topics and issues.

The site also parses this data in order to produce visual representations that help untangle the different threads of the social conversation taking place in Egypt and elsewhere. A series of sentiment and semantic analyses are being produced with the support and collaboration ofUSC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab

“There has been a fundamental societal shift in the role of media in Egypt and other Arab nations during the Arab Spring protests,” said Laila Shereen Sakr, Project Lead of R-Shief. “For the first time, media in Egypt and other Arab countries is tracking what citizens are actually saying and doing, instead of repeating an official government line. R-Shief is a tool that enables critical investigation and study of this phenomenon.”

R-Shief, based in Los Angeles, also publishes a regular blog on various issues concerning Arab culture, media, critical code and other interdisciplinary research questions. This multilingual site promotes an exchange of ideas and reviews of places for research in the Middle East for scholars, journalists and artists traveling to the region. It also serves as a social networking hub for its users. has already generated a strong buzz in academic, technical, artistic and political circles. Recent articles on its work have appeared in The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatchThoughtMesh, and the Parson’s Journal for Information Mapping, among others. In addition, Sakr has presented her concept at Facebook, Cornell University, the Middle East Studies Association, and the Arab Techies workshop in Beirut, Lebanon. 

Sakr’s data visualizations have been shown at the “interACTIVATE” exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. In addition, the concept of combining Twitter analytics and data visualization earned R-Shief a third-place win in the 2011 CRUNCH Design Challenge at USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, as well the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination 2009 Media Scholarship Award. “R-Shief” is the Arabic word for “archive.”

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