Kent State Researchers Receive National Science Foundation Grant to Discover Why Some Messages Go Viral

We have all seen them explode on social media. They are the posts that feature the outlandish, the cute and the funny messages that go viral.



But how does one message catch on and others do not?

It is a question that Kent State University researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences are trying to answer, but as it relates to more serious information shared on social media, such as how we response to disaster warnings and other crises.

The National Science Foundation has awarded Xinyue Ye, Ph.D., assistant professor of geography and director of Kent State’s computational social science lab; Jay Lee, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Geography; and Ruoming Jin, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, along with San Diego State University and the University of Arkansas, $1 million over four years to analyze social networks. Ye is the Kent State research leader.

“We want to see why those messages are so powerful and how these powerful messages relate to our real-world events across space and over time,” Ye said.

Ye and his students are collecting public messages on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from around the world. They analyze it to see how a message started, how fast it traveled, and how long it lasted.

The goal is to take the data and build a prototype that efficiently sends out information during disasters. For example, the team is working with the San Diego Office of Emergency Services to send warnings through social media volunteers. The prototype could serve as a model for other cities.

For Ye, the project is about fostering interdisciplinary research and making society safer.

“I spent a lot of effort to work with local communities to see their needs and to see how my research can make our everyday life much better and easier.”

To learn more about Kent State’s Department of Geography, visit

To learn more about Kent State’s Department of Computer Science, visit


Photo Caption:
The National Science Foundation has awarded Xinyue Ye, Ph.D., assistant professor in Kent State’s Department of Geography a portion of a $1 million grant to research why some social media messages go viral.

Media Contacts:
Xinyue Ye,, 330-672-7939
Kristin Anderson,, 330-672-7907

POSTED: Monday, November 2, 2015 02:24 PM
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2022 01:02 AM
Kristin Anderson