Todd Mostak (AM '12) wins 2011–12 AM thesis prize

May 25, 2012

CMES has awarded the 2011–12 prize for the best Master's thesis in Middle Eastern Studies to Todd Mostak for his thesis, "Social Media as Passive Polling: Using Twitter and Online Forums to Map Islamism in Egypt." The CMES Master’s thesis prize is awarded annually to a recipient chosen by a committee of faculty.

Islamist map Cairo
Mapping Islamist sentiment by neighborhood in Cairo as indicated by the number of prominent Islamists followed by Twitter users. (Image copyright 2012, Todd Mostak. Used by permission.)
Mostak's thesis examines the potential of Twitter as a source of time-stamped, geocoded public opinion data in the context of the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East. For his paper, he explored three ways of measuring a Twitter user's degree of political Islamism. He then geographically aggregated the strongest indicator and compared it with Egyptian census data to test the proposition that Islamism in Egypt is an ideology of the poor.

Mostak presented his research in March at the Center for Geographic Analysis's 2012 conference, "Re-Mapping Africa in GIS: From Humanities to Health." Starting this summer, as a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Mostak will work with his thesis advisor Professor Tarek Masoud to further explore the use of social media–derived data in social science research.