Tilburg University and the Meertens Institute are looking for two enthusiastic PhD researchers for a national research project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), within the Informed Citizen program.
This 4-year project aims to develop and evaluate digital tools for improving the quality of online discussions about current debates (ranging from, for example, COVID-19 to black pete and climate change), in order to better inform citizens. In particular, we will (1) analyze discussions in separate domains and at several points in time, and develop computer-assisted moderation models that are optimally catered to the needs of human discussion moderators, (2) develop automatic forum summarisation techniques that can distinguish between different viewpoints and arguments put forward in a discussion, (3) develop interactive visualizations of the generated summaries, with an overview of the topics and viewpoints, to facilitate exploration of debates.
“Better informing citizens about current debates” is an interdisciplinary project of the Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication and the KNAW Meertens Institute, in close collaboration with nu.nl (DPG Media).
Healthy deliberation is potentially helpful for enhancing social cohesion and mutual understanding in society, by learning about other viewpoints and developing new ones. Through digital connectivity, people with diverse backgrounds can find each other on comment sections in news platforms and possibly engage in constructive and inclusive debate. Yet, this potential of inclusive deliberation has not been realized to date. While news platforms manage to block the bulk of uncivil posts and highlight the most constructive ones, typically by means of a fusion between automated filtering (by machine learning) and intensive human moderation, the current practice lacks a transparent moderation for complex discussion topics and does not give equal attention to minority viewpoints due to the sheer volume of other messages. To address these shortcomings, and move forward to the potential of inclusive deliberation, we propose to develop a tool that summarizes any set of comments posted in the context of news reports, by highlighting the topic and degree of constructiveness of single posts, and by visualizing the output in a manner that invites visitors into discussion and informs them with a heterogeneous overview of the topics and viewpoints that have been shared. This project will provide novel insights into computer-assisted forum moderation by bringing together a multidisciplinary team of researchers, moderators and media-stakeholders and studying the postulations of particular discussion topics.
PhD1 Understanding of (automatic) moderation of online discussions
Location: KNAW Meertens Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Antal van den Bosch & Dr. Ernst van den Hemel
PhD2 Automatic summarisation and visualization of discussions
Location: Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication, Tilburg University, The Netherlands
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Emiel Krahmer & Dr. Florian Kunneman (VU)