iSchool Assistant Professor Receives Grant to Study Social Media Usage


The San José State University College of Applied Sciences and Arts has awarded Assistant Professor Michelle Chen a Research Scholarship and Creative Activity Infusion grant to investigate how tourists use social media.

The grant will be used to support a research project conducted collaboratively with Dr. Yinghua Huang from the Department of Hospitality, Tourism, and Event Management. Chen and Huang’s research will contribute to the exploration of a new application, specifically tourist data, of big data technologies.

The study will adopt a big data analytical technique known as topic modeling to explore popular topics among tourists’ social media interactions on travel-related review websites and how that evolves in the course of a “mega event,” Chen said. For example, the big football game in February would be an occasion where she and Huang would apply topic modeling.

Chen explained: Topic models provide a simple way to examine large volumes of unlabeled text. A topic entails of a cluster of words that frequently occur together. Using contextual clues, topic models can connect words with comparable meanings and differentiate between uses of words with multiple meanings. Topic modeling is similar to clustering numeric data, which finds natural groups of items.

The collaborative research project is just the first step toward understanding the impact of social media data on the tourism industry. According to Chen, the application of big data analytical techniques to tourism data is considered in its infancy, and thus will call for more research endeavors.

The purpose of the RSCA funds is to stimulate and support RSCA activity and develop incentives and opportunities for tenure/tenure-track faculty members to become and remain RSCA active throughout their careers. These awards are given to support interdisciplinary or community collaborations to work on a RSCA project, such as a journal article or a grant proposal.

Chen teaches courses on information visualization, big data analytics, and information technology in the SJSU School of Information’s Master of Library and Information Science degree program. She and Huang will commence the grant project during the spring 2018 semester.