Tech researchers analyze debates in real-time

Reported by: Henry Ramos
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Updated: 10/17/2012 1:41 am

Texas Tech researchers are measuring audience reactions to the debates. They are doing this in real-time, and it's all controlled by what looks like a remote.

It's data you didn't see when you watched the Vice-Presidential debate over the air.

Texas Tech Director for Communication Research Glenn Cummins said, "As you can see it starts to look like a bowl of skittles."

However, these colored lines right smack in the middle do have meaning.

"Males versus females, republicans versus Democrats," he said.

Tech researchers are studying real-time reaction to the debates.

"In this case we are simply asking how they feel about the debate," Cummins said.

Collecting the data for the researchers is pretty simple. Every twist for the candidate means another turn for the audience.

"It collects that data every second," Cummins said. "Every second this hardware is constantly checking
the locations of these dials."

Tech Professor Erik Bucy said, "What I am interested in specifically is the candidates non-verbal behavior, that means what they are doing besides what they are saying."

There were a lot of non-verbal moments in the VP debate: Biden smiling and smirking at his opponent, to Congressman Paul Ryan repeated reaches for the water glass.

"You would see in key moments when Biden was smiling or really seemed to be attacking Ryan is that there would be a cross of men and women who were viewing some things similar, suddenly they had a change of opinion," Bucy said.

Tech Associate Professor Trent Seltzer said, "The other side of this is not just the real-time data collection, but looking at the content that is being viewed and kind of categorizing it." "In this case, at this given moment what is Biden saying
or Ryan saying."

The researchers will then analyze the reactions to body language and what the candidates had to say.

"Hopefully we can paint a portrait of the 2012 election and see what it was all about."

The process will take months. The researchers are asking for the publics participation for the final presidential debate, which is next Monday. The topic: Foreign Policy.

  • If you would like to participate in the "Live Debate Reaction" you can contact:

  • Glenn Cummins

  • glenn.cummins@ttu.edu  


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