Invited Fellows

Reconstructing Human Rights Violations Using Large Eyewitness Video Collections: The Challenges of Transforming Visual Data into Evidence

Jay Aronson, Carnegie Mellon University

The widespread availability of mobile phones with high quality cameras means that events around the world can be live streamed or captured on video and rapidly shared via social media. Because this video is multi-perspectival, it can tell the story of an event from many different vantage points, providing a synthetic and composite form of documentation that has the potential to enrich our understanding of events of interest. While video has the potential to provide valuable information, variability in recording platforms and metadata can make a large video archive complex and very difficult to analyse. This article describes some of the methods developed by a multidisciplinary team to organize and analyse a large collection of event-based video. It also explains how the system is being deployed to aid in the investigation of allegations of abuses by security forces during the 2013–2014 Euromaidan Protests in Kiev, Ukraine. This platform includes a video archiving system, semi-automated tools for video synchronization and geolocation, and visual interfaces for exploring video data. I will conclude by making two main points. First, as with all forms of evidence, video evidence must be combined with other available data and relevant knowledge in order to provide a nuanced understanding of what has taken place. And second, there is a limit to the kinds of analysis that can be accomplished by automated and semiautomated systems in this context; a key dimension of this project has been negotiating and optimizing the interactions of human analysts and machine learning and computer vision algorithms.

Aronson_Jay_mediumres-smJay D. Aronson is the founder and director of the Center for Human Rights Science and Associate Professor of Science, Technology, and Society in the History Department at Carnegie Mellon University. He currently conducts research on the acquisition and analysis of video evidence in human rights investigations. His recent book, Who Owns the Dead? The Science and Politics of Death at Ground Zero (2016), analyzes the recovery, identification, and memorialization of the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. It represents the culmination of more than a decade of work on forensic identification in criminal justice and humanitarian contexts. Aronson received his PhD in the history of science and technology from the University of Minnesota and was both a pre- and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. From 2012 to 2018, he served as a member of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Designing for Truth

Travis Kriplean, Invisible College

I’ll demo several social systems I’ve helped create which variously engage three classes of truth: (1) assessing the accuracy of factual claims, (2) understanding what other people believe and why, and (3) reflecting on what we ourselves see and believe. The emphasis will be on stimulating ideas, rather than developing underlying theory or empirical outcomes.

travisTravis designs and builds technologies that help communities think better together. His secret is the observation that communication technology has largely been designed to speak into, with little attention paid to how people might listen through it. Civil, scalable, and actionable conversations are more likely if we directly support both speaking and listening. After defending his dissertation about designing for listening at the University of Washington Computer Science department, he left academia with several like-minded colleagues to start their own Invisible College, a sort of distributed lab for independent researchers. He lives in the scary gap between academia and industry, with more freedom in how he shepherds new ideas into the world. He is probably best known for Consider.it.


Why Do People Share Fake News? A Sociotechnical Model of Media Effects

Alice Marwick, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
and Data & Society Research Institute

This paper uses active audience approaches to media consumption to investigate and critique the phenomenon known as “fake news.” Fake news is typically tied up with anxieties about the democratic ramifications of the shift from consuming news from broadcast television and newspapers to consuming news on social platforms. Thus, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been heavily criticized for their role in spreading, facilitating, and even encouraging “fake news.” Fact-checking and media literacy are proposed as solutions to this problem, suggesting that when confronted with “correct” information, people will change their political opinions; that what is “correct” and what is “incorrect” is an objective truth; and that people share political viewpoints online in an attempt to inform others, or at least convince others with different opinions. However, today, news spreads through digital networks as only one element of a constant feed of information. Whether people are likely to trust a story has less to do with who published it than who shared it. It is important to understand how many “fake news” or hyper-partisan stories reinforce narratives about race, class, and gender that help build and reinforce collective identity, especially amongst conservatives. Sharing fake news must be understood within this context of self-presentation and reinforcement of group identity. This paper examines the social roles of various types of problematic information, including “fake news,” hyper-partisan news coverage, misinformation, and disinformation, taking a sociotechnical approach to understanding how and why people spread such content through social media.

Alice3_smAlice E. Marwick (PhD, New York University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Faculty Advisor to the Media Manipulation Initiative at the Data & Society Research Institute. She researches the social, political, and cultural implications of popular social media technologies. In 2017, she co-authored Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online, a flagship report examining far-right online subcultures and their use of social media to spread misinformation, for which she was named one of 2017’s Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine and featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Today Show, NPR, and CNN, among other venues. She is the author of Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity and Branding in the Social Media Age (Yale 2013), which draws from ethnographic fieldwork in the San Francisco tech scene to examine how people seek social status through attention and visibility online, and co-editor of The Sage Handbook of Social Media (Sage 2017). Her current book project examines how the networked nature of online privacy disproportionately impacts marginalized individuals in terms of gender, race, and socio-economic status. Marwick was formerly Director of the McGannon Communication Research Center and Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, and a postdoctoral researcher in the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England. Her most recent article on the ethics of the celebrity nude photo leaks appears in Ethics and Information Technology.


Systems of Trust: Understanding Trust Signals Online

Mor Naaman, Cornell Tech

Trust is an essential element of the human condition, the basic building block of human interaction, communication, and exchange. This workshop is motivated by concerns about online misinformation that are coupled with the disturbing declines in trust in institutions like media and government. At the same time, there is evidence that people are increasingly trusting one another online, for example sharing their homes with strangers using Airbnb or jumping into the back of a hired car with an unknown driver. I will explore this tension by giving an overview of our recent work on trust in the sharing economy, and on connections in local communities. I will use Signaling Theory to explain and expand on the results, and will discuss the application of these ideas to the problem at hand — if any.

NorMor Naaman is an associate professor of Information Science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, where he is the founder of the Connective Media hub. Mor’s research applies multidisciplinary methods to 1) gain a better understanding of people and their use of social tech; 2) extract insights about people, technology and society from social media and other sources of social data, and 3) develop new social technologies as well as novel tools to make social data more accessible and usable in various settings. Previously, Mor was on the faculty at Rutgers SC&I, led a research team at Yahoo! Research Berkeley, received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University, and played professional basketball for Hapoel Tel Aviv. He is a recipient of a NSF Early Faculty CAREER Award, research awards and grants from numerous corporations including Oath, Facebook and Google, and multiple best paper awards.