Twitter is a self-bolstering site where users mainly post what they are doing at a given moment. Or, as Thorp jokes, the users are showing off that they are doing something cooler than you are. “How can we take this vanity and turn it into utility?” Thorp then asked the audience. He decided to focus on tweets that had to do with travel. So, he collected all of the posts that had to do with where people were going (for example: “Just landed in New York!”), matched that up with where they were from (easily found on their profile) and created a dynamic map that showed where and how people were getting around. Although the project could stand alone on aesthetic merit alone, Thorp notes that this kind of data has tremendous potential. Scientists, for example, can use this information to figure out how disease spreads from one place to another. By putting small data sets together, he says that we have the potential to do really exciting things. We can use that data towards solving some of the world's biggest problems.
In Thorp's talks, he shows audiences that data is more than just numbers. It's a very human experience, as the data itself is generated by us and has the potential to dramatically change our lives when harnessed the right way. Thorp lectures at New York University, and has also launched The Office for Creative Research with a group of his peers to study the implications of big data and how we can use them to our advantage.