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Lewis College students present social media research at national conference

Two Lewis College of Human Sciences students, undergraduate psychology major Josh Guberman and technology and humanities Ph.D. student Xi Rao, presented posters at the 2016 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing that was held February 27-March 2, 2016 in San Francisco. Both students serve as research assistants to Libby Hemphill, assistant professor of communication and information studies, in the Department of Humanities

Josh Guberman and Xi RaoBefore leaving for the conference, Guberman and Rao described what sparked their interest in Illinois Tech, and shared details on the social media-focused research were presenting.

How long have you been at Illinois Tech?

Guberman: I’m a transfer student and this is my fourth semester here. I think I’m technically a third year student.

Rao: I've been here for three years. I finished my master's degree at Illinois Tech in the humanities department, and transferred into the Ph.D. program.

What made you choose the academic program you’re enrolled in now?

Guberman: I’m interested in applying insights from research into cognition and learning to the development of empirically supported assistive technologies for individuals affected by mental disabilities. Illinois Tech seemed like a good choice, as it has a great psychology program, but is also a tech school with opportunities for students like myself to participate in interdisciplinary projects, research, and to take a variety of computer science and information technology classes. 

Rao: This program fits my interests very well as it is in the intersection of information technology and humanities. I love to use my programming and design skills to explore and improve problems in humanities.

Can you briefly explain the details of the project you're presenting at the conference?

Guberman: In response to the toxicity sometimes found on social media sites like Twitter, we set out to create a scale that can measure aggression on these platforms. By adapting existing measures of aggression from the psychology literature to fit datasets of tweets, we have taken the first steps toward quantifying aggression on Twitter. We crowdsourced the coding of our dataset using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk web-service. Futures steps, currently being worked on by M.S. student Carol Schmitz, include automating the detection of aggressive tweets.

Rao: I am presenting a poster about the Asian American Chicago Network (AACN). My current research investigates the behavior of AACN on social media with computing methods, in order to examine the identity and the need of immigrants in Chicago. Early results demonstrate that members regard AACN not only as a community to maintain their traditional culture, but also a network to seek and offer professional working opportunities.

What does it mean to you to attend the conference and share your work?

Guberman: I’m pretty excited about it.  This is the first opportunity I’ve had to both attend an academic conference and to share work I’ve done with the academic community.  I’m looking forward to the poster session, where I hope other attendees will offer feedback that will help us to further this project. I’m also looking forward to seeing all of the cool stuff that other people there are working on.

Rao: This is my first time to attend a high-level conference like this. It definitely encourages me and gives me more confidence in my future research. I am very excited and looking forward to having a good start.