How the Crowd Works to Organize Information during Mass Disruption Events

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kate StarbirdJoin the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) on Monday, March 5, for a guest lecture by Kate Starbird.

Title: "Crowd Computation: How the Crowd Works to Organize Information during Mass Disruption Events"
Speaker: Kate Starbird, PhD Candidate, University of Colorado, Boulder
Date: Monday, March 5, 2012
Time: 10:30-11:30 AM
Location: Allen Auditorium, Allen Library, UW Seattle campus

This research examines online interaction and collaboration, often at a massive scale, in the context of mass disruption events—events like natural disasters, extreme weather events, and political protests. Mass disruption events in the physical world are now precipitating mass convergence events online, where hundreds, thousands, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of people turn to social media and other tools to seek and share information and in some cases attempt to assist in response efforts. I view this digitally converging crowd as more than mere noise, seeing instead a collectively intelligent, distributed cognitive system doing real work during mass disruption events.

In this talk, I describe several ways in which digital volunteers and other members of the connected crowd act to organize the flood of information moving through social media platforms and other online environments, and how volunteers organize themselves to do this work. Taking an in-depth look at the activities of voluntweeters, a group of Twitterers who self-organized into an emergent response organization in the early aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and Humanity Road, a virtual organization of digital volunteers who respond to crisis events around the world, I work to unpack the popular "crowdsourcing" term. Using the context of mass disruption, my work aims to reveal how social media and other tools enable and structure diverse and oftentimes interactive, information-organizing activities. Looking forward, I present ideas for designing tools and systems to both support and leverage crowd work, and outline future research directions at this intersection of crisis informatics and crowd research.

About the speaker
Kate Starbird is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder at the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society (ATLAS) Institute. Situated within the fields of HCI and CSCW and incorporating theoretical perspectives from cognitive science and communication studies, Starbird's research examines interaction and collaboration as enabled, supported, and structured by social media and other online tools. Starbird investigates both large-scale and small group interaction within the context of crises and other mass disruption events, studying how digital volunteers and other members of the connected crowd work to filter and shape the information space. Her research combines qualitative analysis of social media communications, interviews with digital volunteers, and participant observation within digital volunteer communities with quantitative analysis of large, social media data sets to investigate patterns of human behavior that constitute the "crowdsourcing" phenomenon during crises.

Starbird was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship for her graduate studies. She received her Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Stanford University.