Research

I use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to research social computing, online communities, and social media—what could be possibly better than interview + machine learning? My work has been tremendously supported by my awesome advisors, Dr. Jed Brubaker and Dr. Casey Fiesler, who respectively lead the Identity Lab and the Internet Rules Lab, where there are even more awesome people.

Below is a list of current projects. Well, as current as I can remember to update the website. So, if you are interested in a real-time status update, get in touch with me! Also, check out the publications.

CURRENT PROJECTS

#assholealgorithms Have you unexpectedly seen something upsetting on Facebook about your ex?

Breakups are difficult and emotionally taxing, but people often unexpectedly come across content about their ex-partners curated by social media platforms before they are ready to move on. These upsetting events can cause emotional distress and harm people’s mental health. In this paper, through in-depth interviews, we closely look at people’s experiences with these unexpected upsetting encounters on Facebook, and investigate their feelings, reactions, and perceptions of these encounters. We found people were frustrated by the obscurity of Facebook features and the lack of social norm on Facebook. They were reluctant to take actions like unfriending and blocking, while these features would theoretically solve their problems. We discuss the complex social meanings people assign to technical features, and argue that they should be a primary consideration in the design of social media platforms.

#gifeels How do people use and interpret animated GIFs? Do GIFs really say what you want to say?

Animated GIFs are increasingly popular in text-based communication. GIFs are appealing in part because they are rich and engaging, but they also shape the ways people communicate. Through in-depth qualitative interviews, this empirical, exploratory study examines the nuances of communication practices and experiences with animated GIFs. We identify prominent reasons that animated GIFs appeal to people, and how technical features and context around GIFs impact use of the medium. While the rich context in GIFs can enhance communication, these features also present challenges that can hinder communication. This paper concludes with a discussion of the important role that different types of context (e.g., interpersonal or source material) play in the use and interpretations of GIFs, and how the design of nonverbal communication tools should account for complex contexts embedded in communication media.

#RedditRules What are the characteristics of rules on subreddits? How are rules made and enforced in online communities?

The social sharing and news aggregation site Reddit provides a unique example of an ecosystem of community-created rules. Not only do individual subreddits create and enforce their own regulations, but site-wide guidelines and norms may also influence behavior. This paper reports on a mixed-methods study of 100,000 subreddits and their rules. Our findings characterize the types of rules across Reddit, the frequency of rules at scale, and patterns of rules based on subreddit characteristics. Based on our large-scale analysis as well as using rules around harassment as a case study, we find that rules are often context-dependent for individual subreddits but also share common characteristics across the site. Taken together, our findings provide a rich description of this ecosystem of rules, motivating further inquiry into underlying mechanisms for rule formation and enforcement in online communities.

#ripgenre Can we classify dead users on social media? What are some linguistic characteristics of the deceased profiles?

Data models in computational social science and the design of online platforms increasingly rely on user-generated content. However, they often presume that users are alive. Failing to account for mortality is especially problematic in the context of social media where an increasing number of profiles represent those who have died. Identifying post-mortem content can ensure high-quality data science, as well as enable platforms to manage post-mortem content and support the bereaved. In this paper, we present a computational linguistic analysis of post-mortem social media profiles and content. We provide a analysis of pre- vs. post-mortem language use, followed by a description of classifiers we developed that can accurately classify the mortality of social media profiles and the content posted to them. We further show that we can determine the post-mortem status of profiles after only the first few occurrences of post-mortem content. Finally, we discuss trade-offs between models that emphasize pre- vs. post-mortem precision in this sensitive context. These results mark a first step toward accurately identifying mortality on a large scale, and show how data scientists and platform designers can approach addressing mortality.

 

PAST PROJECTS

#MidOrFeed How does cross-cultural tension emerge in multiplayer games? How does toxic norm evolve in gaming communities?

Rapidly growing and gaining popularity around the world, online games serve as a microcosm of multiethnic interactions. However, tensions easily arise when different cultures meet, and it is important for players to interact with each other positively to have a good experience. In this exploratory study, we discuss the multi-ethnic tension and social dynamics behind toxicity in online game Dota 2. We present a player survey and preliminary analysis of user-generated keywords and future work in interpreting the survey results.

 

Please reach out to me if you want to collaborate or are interested in any of my projects! Learn about what we are doing at the Identity Lab.