Kate Starbird

Autumn 2018

Rumor permutations: studying tweets surrounding the Hawaii missile false alarm

HCDE Asst. Professor Kate Starbird is seeking a small number of students to join an autumn quarter Directed Research Group (DRG — research for credit) looking at rumor permutations — how rumors permute, branch, and otherwise evolve over the course of their lifetime.

Our case study for this DRG are tweets surrounding the Hawaii missile false alarm: At 8:08 am on January 13, 2018, people in the state of Hawaii received a phone alert warning them of an incoming missile. Although (fortunately) this later proved to be a false alarm, for 37 long minutes residents, visitors to Hawaii, and their families across the country (and worldwide) were trying to make sense of the situation (seeking answers to questions such as: Is there a missile? Several missiles? Is/are it/they nuclear? Where did it come from?), and also sending emotional messages in what it was assumed could be their final ‘words’ on Twitter. Initial data exploration has yielded a rumor pertaining to the relationships between the missile alert and North Korea, and this will be the focus of the research.

We are looking for students with a range of different skill sets and abilities, including data science, and qualitative content analysis. Students with programming experience in Python and MySQL are encouraged to apply. Applicants should note that the research will involve in-depth analysis of tweets that were sent during the 37 minutes when people thought there was an incoming missile, and that as a consequence the content may be emotionally-charged.

This research group will be run by HCDE PhD student Tom Wilson and and supervised by HCDE Professor Kate Starbird. If you are interested, please send an email to that includes:

  • Current CV;
  • A brief description of why you interested in the group;
  • Any relevant experience;
  • What you feel you can bring to the group;
  • The number of credits you are seeking.

If you have particular research questions you would be interesting in pursuing you can also note them in your email.

Applications will be reviewed on September 19, 2018, and selected students notified by September 21. Meetings will be held weekly on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday and are mandatory for all registered students. The meeting time will be agreed with the selected students. Accepted students should register for 2-3 credits of HCDE 496 / 596 and are expected to conduct 3 hours per week of work outside the classroom for each registered credit.

Autumn 2018

Designing for reflection on social media activity to support resilience to misinformation

This directed research group seeks to understand how we can support student reflection on social media trace data related to news and politics. Reflection can be viewed as a kind of thinking that involves stepping outside of a personal situation to acquire deeper understanding and prepare for future action. Our research begins with the premise that supporting reflection on social media data could promote resilience in today’s information environment. In this DRG, we will explore this possibility through designing, participating in, and evaluating activities that allow us to reflect on our own use of social media. 

Our approach will be based on a combination of the principles of “participatory design” and "research through design". Researchers in this DRG will be designing tools (e.g. digital systems, visual provocations, classroom activities) to help students reflect on their social media usage and how that might intersect with phenomena like online misinformation and disinformation. To inform our brainstorming and design efforts, researchers will be reflecting on their own social media data and maintaining a record of their experiences as we ideate and try out new things. Creativity, critical thinking, an interest in cultivating self-awareness and exploring the nature of information we find problematic will be key components of our work in this DRG. 

This will be a 2-credit hour course for HCDE 496 / 596. The group will meet on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The group will be facilitated by PhD candidate Ahmer Arif and Dr. Kate Starbird. If you are interested in registering, please contact Ahmer at

Autumn 2018

Understanding the human impact of hurricanes through social media 

HCDE Asst. Professor Kate Starbird is seeking students to join an autumn quarter Directed Research Group (research for credit) looking at the human impact of hurricanes through social media. The goal of this research is to use social media trace data to understand how people adapt to the impacts of hurricanes. This is a mixed methods project — using qualitative and quantitative methods to examine social media posts shared in the aftermath of hurricanes in 2017. We hope to develop new “coding schemes” that identify the different kinds of impacts and adaptations that are visible within social media data as well as new methods for exploring social media data to generate those coding schemes.

We are looking for up to three students to do qualitative analysis and up to three students with some data science experience (Python, R, MySQL or Postgres, etc.) to help with analysis. Students from all departments and all levels are welcome to apply. 

This DRG would be a great fit for students who:

  1. have some interest in analysis of large scale social media data sets and/or want to do research to help people in crisis 
  2. can commit 6-9 hours of work per week (2-3 credit hours) for throughout the quarter

We are particularly interested in (but not limited to) applicants who are fully bilingual and/or culturally fluent in contemporary Puerto Rican culture.

To apply, please send your current resume and a one-page statement about who you are and what you hope to contribute to the project to and

Dr. Starbird's Research Group archive