SMRL Talk: Dr. Aaron Halfaker

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad

Engineering at the Intersection of Productive Efficiency, Ideology, and Ethical AI in Wikipedia


Wikipedia has become the dominant source of reference information for more than half a billion people. Through its improbable rise to popularity, this "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" has also become a synecdoche for open production communities online. In order to operate at massive scales (~160k edits per day), Wikipedians have embraced algorithmic technologies that bring efficiency and consistency to the wiki's complex, distributed processes.

These algorithms mediate social processes, governance decisions, and editors' perceptions of each other. Specifically, so-called "black box" artificial intelligences have proven invaluable for supporting curation activities at scale, but they also have the potential to silence voices and introduce ideologically founded biases in insidious ways. Despite Wikipedians' open/audit-able processes, that's exactly what's been happening.

In this talk, I'll introduce "ORES," an open AI platform that is designed to enable Wikipedia's technologists to enact alternative ideological visions and to enable researchers to more easily perform audits. I'll share some lessons that we've learned maintaining a large-scale, generalized AI service and discuss a call to action direct towards critical algorithms researchers to take advantage of this platform for their studies.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Aaron Halfaker

Dr. Halfaker is a principal research scientist at the Wikimedia Foundation and a senior scientist at the University of Minnesota.  He studies the intersection of advanced algorithmic technologies and social issues in open production communities (like Wikipedia) using a mixture of experimental engineering, data science, and ethnographic methods.  His studies of Wikipedia's editor decline and his development of "ORES", an open AI platform for Wikipedians, have received substantial attention from the technology press.

The Social Media Research Lab (SMRL) is based at the University of Michigan School of Information. SMRL is directed by Professors Nicole Ellison, Cliff Lampe, Casey Pierce, and Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck. Our research explores the effects of social media use in home, school, and work settings. We draw on theories from computer-mediated communication, media studies, online communities, and human-centered computing in our research. Our goal is to understand how social media use effects everyday life and how it can be leveraged to positively impact educational outcomes, civic engagement, and social relationships.