Systems to Improve Online Discussion

Seminar | March 6 | 4-5 p.m. | 310 Sutardja Dai Hall

 Amy Zhang, Graduate Student, MIT

 Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS)

Discussions online are integral to everyday life, affecting how we learn, work, socialize, and participate in public society. Yet the systems that we use to conduct online discourse, whether they be email, chat, or forums, have changed little since their inception many decades ago. As more people participate and more venues for discourse migrate online, new problems have arisen, and old problems have intensified. People are still drowning in information and must now juggle dozens of disparate discussion silos in addition. Finally, an unfortunately significant proportion of this online interaction is unwanted or unpleasant, with clashing norms leading to people bickering or getting harassed into silence. My research in human-computer interaction is on reimagining outdated designs towards designing novel online discussion systems that fix what's broken about online discussion. To solve these problems, I develop tools that empower users and communities to have direct control over their experiences and information. These include: 1) summarization tools to make sense of large discussions, 2) annotation tools to situate conversations in the context of what is being discussed, as well as 3) moderation tools to give users more fine-grained control over content delivery.

Amy X. Zhang is a graduate student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, focusing on human-computer interaction and social computing, and a 2018-19 Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center. She has interned at Microsoft Research and Google Research, received awards at ACM CHI and CSCW, and featured in stories by ABC News, BBC, and CBC. She has an M.Phil. in CS at University of Cambridge on a Gates Fellowship and a B.S. in CS at Rutgers, where she captained the Division I Women’s tennis team. Her research is supported by a Google Fellowship and an NSF Fellowship.

 510-642-1042