SOMA Lab is comprised of an interdisciplinary team of researchers studying topics at the intersection of public health, communication, and technology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Since its inception, SOMA Lab has successfully competed for close to 4 million dollars in government contracts and grants. The Lab’s goals are to harness publicly accessible data from social media platforms, like Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, among others, to rapidly capture and describe health-related attitudes and behaviors of the public, and stay abreast of the marketing and promotional practices of companies whose products or services may directly affect public health and safety.
Current projects range from 1) examining user experiences with popular new tobacco products (JUUL, KandyPens, Puff Bar) to understand their appeal, and the social and environmental characteristics surrounding their use, to 2) identifying, quantifying, and describing promotional practices of companies across various industries and determining how such practices affect offline health-related behaviors, to 3) identifying the extent, and source, of misinformation pertaining to substances like nicotine, cannabis, and products like electronic cigarettes.
Our study "Characterising KandyPens-related posts to Instagram: implications for nicotine and cannabis use" analysed posts to Instagram related to KandyPens, an open-system pod mod e-cigarette company, marketing its products as aromatherapy devices. The objective was to determine themes, corresponding user profiles and references to types of e-liquid solutions used with KandyPens.
Our study, "Follow-Up Investigation on the Promotional Practices of Electric Scooter Companies: Content Analysis of Posts on Instagram and Twitter," examines the extent to which popular e-scooter companies emphasize safety on social media.
Our article "Cannabis surveillance with Twitter data: emerging topics and social bots" demonstrates how social bots perpetuate unsubstantiated health claims about cannabis products on Twitter.