USC Twitter-Mining Computer Predicts Surprise Oscar Winner Tonight

 By Marc Parry

When it comes to which movies deserve an Oscar this Sunday, are fans and the official voters divided?

The public would have picked Avatar over The Hurt Locker in 2010, some say. But this is “The Age of Big Data,” as The New York Times put it recently. Which means computers can help settle this film-buff debate, courtesy of a new tool co-developed by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab.

The lab’s “Oscar Senti-meter” mines millions of Twitter messages to chart how much people are talking about the nominated films, and, more important, whether that chatter is positive or negative. The inside dope among industry types holds that The Artist will win best picture. And Twitter fans, too, are showing the silent film a lot of love, says Jonathan Taplin, director of the new USC lab.

“The dark horse, from our point of view, is Midnight in Paris, which also has a huge amount of positive sentiment,” Mr. Taplin says, repeating a prediction he made inForbes on Tuesday. “That could be the one surprise.”