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Colloquium - Starbird

Crowd Computation: Social Computing and Mass Disruption Events
University of Colorado Boulder

This research examines online interaction and collaboration at a massive scale in the context of mass disruption events -- events like natural disasters, extreme weather events, and political protests. Mass disruption events in the physical world are now precipitating mass convergence events online, where large numbers of people turn to social media and other tools to seek and share information about the unfolding event. Digital convergence presents new possibilities as well as challenges for information processing, and offers a venue for studying and expanding upon notions of social computing.

In this talk, I describe several ways in which members of the social media crowd act to shape the information space through their actions and interactions within the space. I begin by examining the rationale, development, and deployment of the Tweak the Tweet microsyntax, explaining how the proposed innovation for crisis data reporting was adopted by members of the remote crowd and used as a mechanism for self-organized, distributed human computation activity. I then offer excerpts from studies on the activities of digital volunteers, highlighting different strategies that these social media users employ to shape and filter the flood of information during mass disruption events. Finally, I explain how I used these findings on the characteristics of crowd computation behavior to design an algorithm for identifying information coming from "the ground" of a mass protest event. Looking forward to design opportunities that integrate crowd computation and machine computation, this research demonstrates how an empirical understanding of human behavior within these massively-interactive spaces can inform computational approaches for characterizing and leveraging crowd work.

Kate Starbird is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder at the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) Institute. Ms. Starbird's research lies in the field of social computing, examining interaction and collaboration as enabled, supported, and structured by social media and other online tools. Ms. Starbird investigates both large-scale and small group interaction within the context of crises and other mass disruption events, studying how digital volunteers and other members of the connected crowd work to filter and shape the information space. Her research combines qualitative analysis focused on the digital traces of virtual volunteers with statistical and computational analysis of large, social media data sets to investigate patterns of human behavior that constitute the "crowdsourcing" phenomenon during crises.

Ms. Starbird was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship for her graduate studies. She received her Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Stanford University, where she also competed for the women's basketball team, earning All-America and Academic All-America honors.

Department of Computer Science
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, CO 80309-0430 USA
May 5, 2012 (14:13)