Tuesday, August 23, 2011

U of I talks with prominent social media researchers now online

It’s been a year since the University of Illinois hosted the “Year of Social Media,” a lecture series that hosted people at the forefront of the social media revolution.

During the series, Fernanda B. Viégas from Google spoke about bringing powerful, yet simple to operate, computer visualization programs to the masses. An Oxford professor postulated whether the internet is really a “fifth estate,” or if cyber utopianism is a “net delusion.” And the Onion web editor talked about how a social media conversation doesn’t always yield positive results.

“The Onion is very much not interested in having a conversation with its community of viewers and listeners in social media,” the Onion’s Baratunde Thurston said during his lecture, before playing an Onion sketch of a television news anchor being berated by audience members through social media.

Videos of all the talks are now available on the event’s website. The seven lecture videos total more than ten hours of footage.

“We have invited prominent researchers who study social media, leading figures from the social media industry, and people who embody social media success stories,” the YISM website reads.

The program was organized by Karrie Karahalios, a computer science professor and graduate of the MIT Media Lab, and Christian Sandvig, an Associate Professor of Communication, Media & Cinema Studies, Library & Information Science. Sandvig is also a Research Associate Professor at the Coordinated Science Laboratory.

Abstracts of the speakers, obtained from the YISM website, are listed after the break. For the full videos, please visit https://www.informatics.uiuc.edu/display/infospeak/Home.

From Politics to Art: Visualization as a Medium
Fernanda B. Viégas, Google
Data visualization has historically been accessible only to the elite in academia, business, and government. It was "serious" technology, created by experts for experts. In recent years, however, web-based visualizations-ranging from political art projects to news stories-have reached audiences of millions. Meanwhile, new initiatives in government, aimed at all citizens, point to an era of increased transparency. What will this new era of data transparency and expressiveness look like-and what are the implications for technologists who work with data? To help answer this question, I report on work into public data analysis and visualization. Some of the results come from Many Eyes, a "living laboratory" web site where people may upload their own data, create interactive visualizations, and carry on conversations. Political discussions, citizen activism, religious conversations, game playing, and educational exchanges are all happening on Many Eyes. Finally, I discuss artistic projects that complicate and subvert the traditional notion of data visualization by highlighting its potential as an expressive medium that invites emotion.

Foursquare Rallies, Voter Protection, Open Joke Book and Other Awesome Things To Do With Social Media
Baratunde Thurston, The Onion
In this talk, comedian, political writer and Onion Digital Director Baratunde Thurston will share humorous and insightful tales from his years in the trenches of social media. Whether he's personifying the swine flu on Twitter, using wikis to protect the vote or taking Foursquare mayorships way too seriously, Baratunde is always pushing the established bounds of the latest web tools for entertainment and enlightenment.

Inference on the Social Web:
Tales of Translating Wikipedia and Bad Vision
Eytan Adar, University of Michigan
There is a great deal of optimism (rightfully) about the benefits of social systems in generating "collective wisdom." However, there are many situations where the collective is actually worse than the individual. Being able to distinguish between the success and failure cases of collective behaviors is as important as finding new ways to mine and leverage these behaviors. I'll cover two large projects (and a smattering of other ongoing work) that demonstrate the positive and negative features of automatically analyzed social data.
The first project focuses on the rapid globalization of Wikipedia. Pages for the same topic in many different languages are co-evolving but frequently at different rates leading to variance in size, scope, and quality. I'll describe a first attempt at reconciling these differences by automatically aligning Wikipedia data in different languages, detecting discrepancies and filling in missing information. The attractive feature of the method is that it uses the "wisdom" of independent groups to work effectively even in the absence of dictionaries.
The second project demonstrates the potential pitfalls of collective wisdom. Specifically, we look at collaborative visualizations systems in which systematic bias leads groups to make significant mistakes in the graphical perception of visualizations. By manipulating social signals in realistic ways, we were able to influence individuals in chart comprehension tasks. I'll cover how this was done, why social signals are particularly harmful, and how other kinds of collective behaviors might solve this problem.

The Fifth Estate of the Internet Realm
William H. Dutton, University of Oxford
The rise of the press, radio, television and other mass media created an independent institution: the 'Fourth Estate', central to pluralist democratic processes. However, the growing use of the Internet and related technologies enables the networking of individuals in ways that create a new source of accountability not only in government and politics, but also in other sectors. How does the Internet create a space for this new form of social accountability? Is it indeed enabling a 'Fifth Estate'?
The Internet is a platform for networking individuals in ways that can challenge the influence of other more established bases of institutional authority, and that can be used to increase the accountability of the press, politicians, doctors and academics by offering networked individuals with alternative sources of information and opinion. Questions about the governance of the Fifth Estate are likely to become more prominent as people realize that the Internet is a social phenomenon with broad and substantial implications for political and social accountability, as illustrated by the crisis over WikiLeaks. The development and vitality of the 'Fifth Estate' rests less on new policy initiatives than by responding to the strategies of its enemies – the other four estates, and the mob, of the Internet realm.

Vlogcast yourself:
Exploring nonverbal behavior in social media
Daniel Gatica-Perez, Idiap Research Institute
Video blogging (vlogging) has evolved from its "chat from your bedroom" initial format to a highly creative form of expression and communication, and represents one of the most popular types of user-generated content on sites like YouTube. Recent research in computational social media, including mining of blogs and online social networks, has made much progress on automatically analyzing text sources. However, human communication is more than the words we write: the nonverbal channel - gaze, facial expressions, body gestures and postures, prosody - plays a key role in the formation, maintenance, and evolution of a number of fundamental social constructs in face-to-face and remote communication settings.
In this talk, I will argue that the nonverbal channel available in vlogging opens several promising research lines in social media, and will present ongoing work towards automatic vlogger analysis from the nonverbal perspective. First, vlogging is multimodal in nature, and I will present audio and visual processing methods to characterize vloggers' nonverbal communicative behavior from cameras and microphones. Then, I will examine connections between vlogging behavior and social attention. Finally, I will present work on personality impressions in vlogging and their relation to nonverbal behavior, and discuss other open issues related to this novel form of interaction. Overall, my hope is that this research not only contributes to understand a successful phenomenon in social media, but can also add to the computational social science agenda by studying a human communication scenario that is rich and complex, and that provides behavioral data at scales and diversity not previously available due to natural limitations (e.g. in face-to-face interaction).

Digital Natives or Digital Naïves?
Eszter Hargittai, Northwestern University
Lots of excitement surrounds social media innovations due to their potential to connect people and give voice to an unprecedented number of participants in public conversations. Who are the people most likely to embrace such opportunities? How universal is young adults' use of the tools and services that make such participation possible? Are popular assumptions about the inherent digital savvy of today's youth warranted? Drawing on unique data about the online know-how and practices of a diverse group of young adults, this talk highlights the role of skill in taking advantage of social media's potential benefits and explores what user characteristics are most likely to be associated with online contributions.

Knowledge in the Age of Social Media
David Weinberger, Harvard University
For thousands of years in the West, we have had a settled idea of knowledge: it is certain, the same for everyone, permanent, and masterable within its various domains, and is a quality of an individual's beliefs. It turns out in the Age of Social Media that those are properties not of knowledge but of the medium with which we have preserved and communicated it. As knowledge moves to the Net, it is acquiring the properties of its new medium – a network that is profoundly social, ever-changing, composed of links, and that contains perpetual disagreements. Perhaps knowledge's old medium has us looking in the wrong places for its new incarnation. Perhaps knowledge lives now not in books or skulls, but in networks of tweets and pages. This talk will begin to explore the effects the unsettling of knowledge is having on our institutions and our way of thinking about our world.