Institute for Software Research
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Probabilistic Models of Topics and Social Events

Wei Wei

December 2016

Ph.D. Thesis (SC)


Keywords: Machine Learning, Topic Modeling, Graphical Models, Non-parametric Bayesian, Text Mining

Structured probabilistic inference has shown to be useful in modeling complex latent structures of data. One successful way in which this technique has been applied is in the discovery of latent topical structures of text data, which is usually referred to as topic modeling. With the recent popularity of mobile devices and social networking, we can now easily acquire text data attached to meta information, such as geo-spatial coordinates and time stamps. This metadata can provide rich and accurate information that is helpful in answering many research questions related to spatial and temporal reasoning. However, such data must be treated differently from text data. For example, spatial data is usually organized in terms of a two dimensional region while temporal information can exhibit periodicities. While some work existing in the topic modeling community that utilizes some of the meta information, these models largely focused on incorporating metadata into text analysis, rather than providing models that make full use of the joint distribution of metainformation and text.

In this thesis, I propose the event detection problem, which is a multidimensional latent clustering problem on spatial, temporal and topical data. I start with a simple parametric model to discover independent events using geo-tagged Twitter data. The model is then improved toward two directions. First, I augmented the model using Recurrent Chinese Restaurant Process (RCRP) to discover events that are dynamic in nature. Second, I studied a model that can detect events using data from multiple media sources. I studied the characteristics of different media in terms of reported event times and linguistic patterns.

The approaches studied in this thesis are largely based on Bayesian nonparametric methods to deal with steaming data and unpredictable number of clusters. The research will not only serve the event detection problem itself but also shed light into a more general structured clustering problem in spatial, temporal and textual data.

196 pages

Kathleen M. Carley (Chair)
Tom Mitchell
Alexander J. Smola
Huan Liu (Arizona State University)

William L. Scherlis, Director, Institute for Software Research
Andrew W. Moore, Dean, School of Computer Science

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