Faculty Talk: Amy Zhang

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

3100 North Quad, Ehrlicher Room

Systems to Improve Online Discussion


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 My research in human-computer interaction is on reimagining outdated designs towards designing novel online discussion systems that fix what's broken about online discussion.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. 

About the speaker

Amy X. Zhang is a fifth-year PhD student at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), focusing on social computing and human-computer interaction.  She is also a 2018-19 Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard. She has interned at Microsoft Research and Google Research and was a software engineer at a news startup before her PhD. Her work has received a best paper honorable mention award at ACM CHI, best paper award at ACM CSCW, and has been featured by ABC News, BBC, CBC, The Verge, and New Scientist. She received a master's degree in advanced computer science at the University of Cambridge on a Gates Fellowship and a bachelor's degree in computer science at Rutgers, where she was captain of the Division I Women's tennis team. Her research is supported by a Google PhD Fellowship and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.  

Lunch will be served at 11:45 a.m. The talk will begin at noon.