On the Monday after the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally, Phil Bourne was sitting in a meeting with other University of Virginia deans and institute directors. Even in the first few days after the clashes in Charlottesville, he said, campus leaders were beginning to recognize problems with their response to the violent white nationalist march on Grounds on Aug. 11.
“It was clear we hadn’t made as much out of social media as we could have,” he said. “So we started to wonder if there were ways to use social media and big data to handle these things in the future.”
Almost immediately, several faculty members and state agencies were interested in helping, he said.
Bourne is the director of the Data Science Institute, an interdisciplinary department that compiles large-scale data analysis, and he knew the project would be a good fit for his capstone students. Though it is just in its beginning stages, Bourne hopes the project will help the university and law enforcement accurately sort and promptly respond to information at future events.