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2021-2022 Events


TSB Book Club

4:00pm, Frances Searle 1-180

TSB will convene an in-person book club to discuss The Engaged Scholar: Expanding the Impact of Academic Research in Today’s World, by Andrew J. Hoffman. Book Abstract: Society and democracy are ever threatened by the fall of fact. Rigorous analysis of facts, the hard boundary between truth and opinion, and fidelity to reputable sources of factual information are all in alarming decline. A 2018 report published by the RAND Corporation labeled this problem “truth decay” and Andrew J. Hoffman lays the challenge of fixing it at the door of the academy. But, as he points out, academia is prevented from carrying this out due to its own existential crisis—a crisis of relevance. Scholarship rarely moves very far beyond the walls of the academy and is certainly not accessing the primarily civic spaces it needs to reach in order to mitigate truth corruption. In this brief but compelling book, Hoffman draws upon existing literature and personal experience to bring attention to the problem of academic insularity—where it comes from and where, if left to grow unchecked, it will go—and argues for the emergence of a more publicly and politically engaged scholar. This book is a call to make that path toward public engagement more acceptable and legitimate for those who do it; to enlarge the tent to be inclusive of multiple ways that one enacts the role of academic scholar in today’s world.

The Car as a Vehicle for Understanding Interaction at Scale

Wendy Ju (Jacobs Institute at Cornell Tech)

3:00pm, Zoom

Abstract: Wendy Ju will survey her lab’s research activity and detail novel methods they are developing to tackle the challenge of understanding human-machine interaction issues at large. This talk is co-hosted with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

TSB Industry Panel

4:00pm, Zoom

Abstract: TSB will be co-hosting an industry panel with the HCI+D Center, where our esteemed alumni Mark Diaz (Google), Emily Harburg (Education First), Isaac Johnson (Wikimedia Foundation), Lauren Scissors (Facebook), and Prem Seetharaman (Descript) will share their experiences. They will discuss the research challenges in industry, the skills required to address these challenges, and how academia and industry might work together to address these challenges.

Responsible Computing with Social Data: Bias Detection, Theory Validation, Impact Assessment

Jana Deisner (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

4:00pm, Zoom

Abstract: Using computational methods to study social structure and behavior requires researchers to make a plethora of decisions, including how to sample and preprocess data, implement algorithms, measure social effects, and validate results. I present findings and lessons learned from assessing the impact of some of these choices, especially related to data cleaning and selecting variables and metrics, on understanding social systems and validating classic social science theories in contemporary settings. I highlight sources of biases and strategies for mitigating biased insights. I then discuss how we leveraged computational methods to study the impact of information products and research funding on society. I focus on lessons learned from collaborating with domain experts on socio-technical data analytics.

Social Computing and Visualization Tools for Empowering the Public

Narges Mahyar (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)

4:00pm, Frances Searle 1-441

Abstract: Public participation is a pillar of a functioning democracy. Current technology for facilitating public participation has been focused on broadening access and data collection from the public. However, these technologies still face several challenges in democratizing public participation, especially for marginalized populations and integrating data analysis into civic decision-making processes. In this talk, I present examples of my recent work on building and studying social computing tools to democratize civic data collection and visualization techniques to empower the general public to understand and explore data around complex sociotechnical problems such as urban design and climate change. These examples demonstrate applications of 1) collaborative technologies and interactive visualization to increase public engagement, 2) low barrier technology to engage reticent participants to provide feedback during town hall meetings, 3) online platforms and crowdsourcing techniques to scale public participation and empower the public to contribute meaningfully in a short amount of time, and 4) visualization tools to enable civic leaders to make sense of a large amount of public input. I describe a vision for expanding my research by building novel tools and visualization techniques to empower the public to understand the data that is increasingly part of their lives and to be able to take a more active role in shaping civic policies.

Panel Discussion: Technology, Media, and Democracy

4:00pm, Zoom

Abstract: TSB will host a virtual panel on the topic of Technology, Media & Democracy, moderated by Ágnes Horvát (Northwestern University). The panelists include Chris Bail (Duke University), Mor Naaman (Cornell Tech), and Rebekah Tromble (George Washington University). Computing technology—and AI in particular—now plays a major role in our media system, personalizing content feeds, informing content moderation decisions at scale, automatically generating articles and synthetic media, powering social bots that chat or persuade, and driving myriad other production processes that influence large chunks of what we all pay attention to. Issues ranging from the proliferation of disinformation, to bias in content exposure, online harassment, and the polarization or radicalization of beliefs are crucial to research and address. How can we ensure that this complex media system we all inhabit encourages individuals and society in productive directions, supporting rather than undermining democracy? In this panel, we’ll explore the technology, the issues, and what research, design, practice, and policy can do to work towards a media environment that is healthy for democracy and society.
Find the flyer for this event here !
The recording for this event is available here !

Getting to the Heart of Technology Ethics

Michael Skirpan (Carnegie Mellon University)

4-5:30pm, Mudd Hall, Room 3514

Abstract: Universities play a major role in the formative preparation of engineers going into the workplace. Yet, despite an explosion in promises to bring more and better ethics into the technology industry, little appears to be changing as the issues continue to accelerate. Over the past four years, Dr. Skirpan has designed ethics curriculum for over 30 courses at Carnegie Mellon and teaches his own practical ethics class that offers both skills (framed as mental habits) and mentorship around what to really expect in the workplace and how to deal with your own personal dilemmas at the heart of many professional decisions. During this talk, he will walk through examples of the novel approaches he employs when teaching ethics with CMU engineering students, share lessons learned, and conclude with open discussion on what we can do as practitioners, mentors, and teachers in order to move the needle of ethics in technology and engineering fields.