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“Fake News/Real Knowledge: Histories, Structures, Futures”

March 16, 2018 @ 9:30 am - 5:00 pm

On March 16, 2018, the NULab will be hosting its second annual conference, showcasing the work of faculty, graduate students, and research collaborators. To register, please fill out this form.

The keynote address will be delivered by Yochai Benkler, Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Professor Benkler will deliver a talk titled: “The Architecture of Disinformation in the American Public Sphere” (abstract below).

This conference will include presentations on current research by NULab faculty and graduate students, centered around questions of information circulation, the formation of ideas, the spread of misinformation, and the phenomenon of “fake news.” Both of the NULab’s co-directors will present on their current research: Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, professor and Chair of the Department of English, will present with English Department PhD student Alanna Prince on “The Colonialism of the Archive and Digital Decolonization,” in which she will share how the Early Caribbean Digital Archive is working to change frameworks for knowledge production and construct archives that include more diverse perspectives. David Lazer, professor of political science and computer and information science, will present “The Pathways of Fake News,” sharing new work analyzing voter patterns and social media to map out the spread of fake news on Twitter.

The conference will also include presentations by the NULab’s interdisciplinary faculty and graduate students. Meg Heckman, assistant professor of journalism, will discuss a new collaborative project (in partnership with fellow NULab faculty member John Wihbey) that is investigating how stories are adopted by local news outlets, in a talk titled “The Local-Mobile Paradox: Missed innovation opportunities and the future of local news.” Associate professor of computer science Tina Eliassi-Rad will share her new project, “Just Machine Learning,” and Nicholas Beauchamp, assistant professor of political science, will speak about his research into the spread of hate speech on Twitter, with a talk titled “Trajectories of Hate: Mapping cultural and biological racism on Twitter.”

Laura Nelson, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology will present her paper, “Ideational and Socio-Structural Isomorphism and the Influence of Collective Beliefs: An Exploration,” which uses network analysis to examine how ideas get translated into practice. Kenneth Joseph, Network Science Institute postdoctoral fellow, will present a talk titled “Who Says What to Whom: Using Bi-Spectral Clustering to Organize and Analyze Social Media Protest Networks.” English department PhD candidate and current Humanities Center fellow Jonathan Fitzgerald will speak on “The Other Fake News: Underrepresented Women Writers and the History of Literary Journalism,” showing that the the exclusion of women writers from the history of literary journalism has created an incomplete picture of that history. Sarah Shugars, a PhD student at the Network Science Institute, will present “Why Keep Arguing? Predicting Participation in Political Conversations Online” and Costas Panagopoulos, professor of political science and director of big data and quantitative initiatives within the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, who will speak on “Conspiracy Propagation and Fake News: A Sociopsychological Perspective.”

Keynote Abstract:

Politically salient news in the United States flows through a highly asymmetric media ecosystem. The right is dominated by highly partisan outlets; the center and left remain focused on organizations that adhere to professional journalistic norms. The divergence in information architecture of the two parts of the American public sphere, documented here from network and text analysis of several million news stories during the election season and Donald Trump’s first year in office, offers a structural explanation for observed asymmetry in susceptibility to partisan conspiracy, rumor, and false beliefs. Facebook, Russia, and Macedonian teenagers are arguably distractions from the institutional dynamics underlying the present epistemic crisis.

Lunch will be provided.

Formal registration for this event has closed, but we should be able to accommodate any last-minute registrations. Contact Sarah Connell (sa.connell[at]northeastern[dot]edu) to inquire about registering. The conference program is available here.


March 16, 2018
9:30 am - 5:00 pm


NULab: for Texts, Maps, and Networks


Raytheon Amphitheater
120 Forsyth Street
Boston, MA United States
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