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Matchmakers Galore: NULab’s “Speed Data-ing” Office Hours

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Image showing the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks logo.

By Claire Lavarreda

On October 18th, the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks hosted a “Speed Data-ing” event designed to foster connections and collaborations across the Northeastern community. For one hour, the NULab served as the “matchmaker” for the data, work, and projects presented by the following scholars: Dr. Alex Cline (Northeastern University London); Dr. Myojung Chung (Journalism); Dr. Isabel Martinez (Sociology and Anthropology; Culture, Societies and Global Studies); and Tongjing Wang (NULab Visiting Scholar; Utrecht University). This was the eighth annual Speed Data-ing event.

The event began with Dr. Alex Cline’s presentation. With a rich background in computing and the digital humanities, Cline has been an active participant in CATLR, as well as two research clusters titled “AI and Information Ethics,” as well as “AI and Higher Education.” During his brief talk, Cline discussed the Digital Humanities Climate Coalition (DHCC). The DHCC examines the consequences of computing, weighing the benefits and complications presented by “minimal computing” (doing more with less) and “maximal computing” (harms the environment, but provides opportunities). The DHCC deals with issues of environmental consumption, large cloud-based servers like Google and AWS, as well as large-scale data processing. Cline’s research project, “Sustainable Maximal Computing,” tackles some of the aforementioned issues, examining the sustainability of an online retailer of flowers. The goal is to look at the energy consumption of cloud resources and interview developers about their work. Cline has found that sustainability is a concern for these businesses and developers—though they may not think in terms of environmental impact, they do worry about sustainability in terms of “keeping the lights on” or ensuring the system is running efficiently. Describing himself as a humanities practitioner who happened to learn code, Cline invited interested individuals to contact him with further questions.

Things switched off to Dr. Myojung Chung and her project, “Share to Stop the Harm: How Social Media Metrics Drive Sharing of Fact-Checking Messages via First-Person Perception.” Chung examines fact-checking in social media, aiming for better intervention against misinformation. Chung’s project and article focus on the role of “social media metrics,” or SMM. Based on Chung’s findings, fake news gets high SMM, accelerating the diffusion of misinformation. Chung noted that, by some measures, fake news reaches 1,000 to 10,000 people, while real news only reaches 1,000. In response, her research seeks to highlight the way in which SMM can aid the spread of fact-checking messages. Chung has discovered a first-person effect in the science of fact-checking—a cognitive behavioral phenomenon. According to Chung, there is a perceptual gap in assessing desirable media influence on ourselves vs. others, and perceived media influence on ourselves vs. others. Therefore, if a social media post goes viral, and an indicator that the post is fake news is added, we are more likely to view the posts as socially desirable, since we “know” more than others. The post is then shared and disseminated with the fact-checking message. Chung concluded by noting areas for follow-up, including the intended (more fact-checking) and unintended (too much fact-checking) results of the study.

Next, Dr. Isabel Martinez presented her project, the “New York Latinx Comedy Project,” which aims to make 50+ years of stand-up comedy visible. According to Martinez, the Latinx population has contributed to the highly successful NYC comedy economy and environment, yet they are excluded from stages and visibility. Latinx participants have performed comedy in Spanish, English, and Spanglish, yet despite their significant contributions, they are often overlooked. Martinez states that deeper issues—such as cultural importance and citizenship—are raised by a lack of attention to Latinx NYC comics. In fact, she notes how Latinx comedians are absent from NYC stages, relegated to “Latin Nights.” Over time, these nights have faded away, with Latinx performance of cultural heritage not considered “fully American” or universally appealing. Through interviews, ephemera, and transcripts, Martinez aims to rectify this invisibility by creating a digital archive. As a concluding example, Martinez played a clip of Delilah Ramos, New York’s first and only Latina comedy club owner. She managed Gotham Club and advocated for Latinx and female comics before opening her own club after 9/11. Though the “Laugh Lounge” closed its doors in 2012, Ramos made an impact in her community, working with big names like Kevin Hart and Patrice O’Neal.

Finally, Tongjing Wang closed off the session with his work, “Revealing City Relationships: Collocation Analysis in Urban Planning.” The goal was to produce a network analysis of cities in China in order to understand city-relationships for informed policy-making. Wang’s project investigates the application of collocation analysis in geography, using text mining to capture city relationships from digital text. Through the use of Common Crawl, Wang was able to establish word co-occurrence networks between cities, highlighting domains like industry, education, and finance. Wang’s goal is to gradually expand into regional network analysis. Once presentations were complete, a brief Q & A session was held. Participants were interested in learning more about Cline’s “coding dojos,” Martinez’s Latinx comedy community, Chung’s concept of SMM self-purification, and interesting relationships discovered by Tonging.

The Speed Data-ing event, though brief, helped affirm my belief in DH as a wide and welcoming space. Oftentimes, we enter DH with the expectation that we don’t belong—maybe “real” DHers are only people who can code, are established scholars, or have fully-complete projects. In reality, events like this one highlight the diverse nature of DH participants—students and professors, coders and interviewers all share the same space, and create valuable knowledge to share with the DH community.

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