Full Stack Computer Science Research: Engineering, Descriptive and Normative Science

June 9, 2021 - 16:00-17:15

Abstract: Computer Science has long been seen as a discipline at the crossroads of Math and Engineering. As such, it was largely driven by the goal of developing solutions for problems and understanding their underlying governing principles. Some CS-related subdisciplines such as CSCW, HCI, Information Systems, or Software Engineering have long argued that many problems are rooted in social practice and should, therefore, also be investigated using the descriptive methods of behavioral sciences. Indeed, much of computer science has increasingly embraced these empirical approaches. This talk will use the example of recommending news to exemplify how developing applications often includes the full stack of scientific traditions: engineering (or constructive/design-oriented), descriptive, and normative. It will highlight that researchers in our discipline increasingly have to master many scientific traditions if they want to understand a domain to assess issues and construct socially acceptable solutions. It will, furthermore, highlight that answering some of the normative challenges may require computer scientists to embrace cultural differences when devising their solutions.


Abraham Bernstein, Ph.D., is a Full Professor of Informatics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He received a Diploma in Computer Science from ETH Zurich and a Ph.D. in Management with a concentration in Information Technologies from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. His research focuses on various aspects of the AI/data mining/machine learning, semantic web, recommender systems, crowd computing, and collective intelligence as well as, occasionally, CSCW. His work is based on both social science (organizational psychology/sociology/economics) and technical (computer science, artificial intelligence) foundations. Mr. Bernstein is also a founding Director of the University of Zurich’s Digital Society Initiative (DSI) — a university-wide initiative with more than 180 faculty members from all disciplines investigating all aspects of the interplay between society and the digitalization and President of the Steering Committee of the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Research Priority Program 77 on the Digital Transformation. He was also a member of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence (MSI-AUT). Professor Bernstein has served on the editorial boards of a variety of top journals including as an co-Editor in Chief at the Journal of Web Semantics and Associate Editor at the ACM Transaction on Internet Technologies or the ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems.

Inequalities in Social Media Engagement during COVID-19 Lockdowns

June 10, 2021 - 19:15-20:45

As COVID-19 swept across the globe in early 2020, information about the virus spread on media of all forms. Given their broad coverage and reach, it is not surprising that many people turned to social media during the pandemic to share and seek content as well as to connect with others. How did people use such platforms during lockdown for COVID-19-related content and discussions? How did such engagement vary across countries? And how did use of social media to interact about the pandemic relate to people’s knowledge as well as their misperceptions about the virus? Drawing on national survey data from Italy, Switzerland, and the United States collected during initial lockdowns in April, 2020, this talk will show how people’s socio-demographics and digital skills vary in their use of social media platforms in general, and pandemic-related engagement in particular. The talk will emphasize the importance of paying attention to people’s background characteristics when looking at the implications of how they use social media.


Dr. Eszter Hargittai is Professor and holds the Chair of Internet Use and Society at the Department of Communication and Media Research of the University of Zurich. She is past Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Hargittai’s research looks at how people may benefit from their digital media uses with a particular focus on how differences in people’s digital skills influence what they do online. Hargittai’s research has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Google, Microsoft Research, Facebook, Nokia and Merck, among others. Her work has received awards from several professional associations and for her teaching, she received the Galbut Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award of the School of Communication at Northwestern University. She is Fellow of the International Communication Association. She is editor, most recently, of Research Exposed: How Empirical Social Science Gets Done in the Digital Age (Columbia University Press 2021). She has given invited talks in 18 countries on five continents. Hargittai holds a PhD in Sociology from Princeton University and a BA in Sociology from Smith College. She tweets @eszter.

Designing Subtle Devices: Forging and Maintaining the Social over the Distance

June 11, 2021 - 19:30-20:45

Feelings of closeness, togetherness, relatedness, or intimacy are major ingredients of people’s wellbeing. While those feelings certainly require physical proximity now and then, technology had been and continues to be instrumental in forging and maintaining them over the distance. From phone calls and Zoom to social media and virtual worlds – interactive technology is an inseparable part of a multitude of everyday interpersonal practices. What seems often underestimated, though, is the subtlety in which those technologies shape the relationships they mediate. In fact, phones and videoconferencing systems are far from neutral devices for people to exchange information as they please. Especially through functionality and interaction design, devices encourage particular interpersonal practices and disencourage others. In this talk, I will revisit more than ten years of own experience with building subtle and maybe not so subtle devices to maintain and forge the social over the distance. I will critically review our design rationales, as well as tell stories about successes and failures to establish and reshape interpersonal practices through designed interaction.


Dr. Marc Hassenzahl is professor for “Ubiquitous Design / Experience and Interaction” at the University of Siegen, Germany. He combines his training in psychology with a love for Interaction Design. With his group of designers and psychologists, he explores the theory and practice of designing pleasurable, meaningful and transforming interactive systems. Marc is author of “Experience Design. Technology for all the right reasons” (MorganClaypool), co-author of “Psychologie in der nutzerzentrierten Produktgestaltung. Mensch-Technik-Interaktion-Erlebnis” (“People, Technology, Interaction, Experience”) (Springer, with Sarah Diefenbach) and many peer-reviewed papers at the seams of psychology, design research and interaction/industrial design.

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