What Can Happen in an Hour of Code? -
How do you spark excitement about computer programming among preteen girls?
“Make me a Hunger Games arena.”
That’s the challenge Kate Miller presented to a group of middle schoolers during last summer’s Penn Girls in Engineering, Math & Science Camp (GEMS) at the University of Pennsylvania, where Miller is a sophomore bioengineering major.
Using Kodu, a visual programming language from Microsoft Research that makes it easy for students to create games, characters, and landscapes, the girls quickly dived into the task of creating a physical environment that drew on their shared interest in popular culture.
FUSE Labs at Microsoft Research is seeking interns for 2014. For these positions, we are looking for graduate students from Computer Science, Information Science, Design, Media Studies, Social Science, and other fields with a focus on social computing and social media.
FUSE Labs is a research and development lab at Microsoft Research focused on the design, study, and development of socio-technical systems. We are a uniquely multidisciplinary team where you have the opportunity to work with developers, designers, and other researchers interested in building systems and studying them critically. Our goals are to contribute to the academic community as well as to invent the next generation of social technologies. Some of the topics that are currently of interest for FUSE Labs are civic media, creative collaboration, informal learning, communities of interest, hyperlocal media, information visualization, and machine learning applied to social data. That said, we are open to a diversity of methodologies.
Last year, Gilad Lotan and I spent some time analyzing the #YoSoy132 protests in Mexico using data from Twitter. Several articles and even books about #YoSoy132 have come out since. For example, De Mauleón wrote an excellent piece for Nexos (in Spanish) that resembled some of our own analysis. Sadly, Gilad and I got busy and abandoned the project, but after this recent conversation, we decided to dig out our notes and post them here in the event that they might be useful for others.
The rise and fall of the “Mexican Spring”
Exactly a year ago, in December 2012, the newly elected Mexican President Peña Nieto took office amid violent protests. As early as May 2012, a number of massive student protests against the then candidate Peña gained a lot of attention on social media, both inside and outside Mexico. The Occupy movement and the international press called these protests the Mexican Spring for its similarities with other “hashtagged” protests. In our analysis, we only focused on the first few months of the protests. Today, #YoSoy132 is only a shadow of what it was, but during the election it was able to accomplish several important victories, including the organization of an online presidential debate (broadcast on YouTube), and the introduction of the issue of media monopolies and media bias to the forefront of the political discussion.
We focused on the origin and spread of the #YoSoy132 student protests by lookign at Twitter trending topics, follower connections, and the content of the tweets. We found that despite the common assumption that the movement appeared “out of the blue,” after an incident involving a candidate’s visit to a university, we can actually trace the movement’s gestation to several months before the trigger incident. Additionally, we found that despite the attempts to link the movement to traditional political groups, i.e. a political party, the movement actually activated typically disconnected groups of people across the political and class spectrum.
We’re combining two FUSE projects, Socl and Kodu (better together, like peanut butter and chocolate!) Kodu is our newest creation experience on Socl. Besides collages, Picotales, BLINKs, and video parties, you can now invent your own games using a simple, visual programming language. Anyone can create with Kodu, whether you’re a kid or kid at heart! Explore worlds from the community on the Socl Kodu channel.
Kodu is free, but you’ll need to download Kodu to get started creating your worlds. Start learning and get ready for Code.org’s Hour of Coding for Computer Science week December 9-15, 2013. Check out collections of some Kodu favorites here:
Kodu Classic Arcade
Kodu Board Games
Kodu Digigirlz 2013
Kodu Imagine Cup
Kodu Rollercoaster Worlds!
More information, tutorials and lessons plans are available on the Kodu Game Labs website.
Write up by Andrés Monroy-Hernández and Elena Agapie, building on the work of J. Nathan Matias
Motivated by the disappearance of local newspapers, this past summer, we started to explore new ways of supporting community news production through collaborative writing tools. The first incarnation of this is NewsPad, a system for neighborhood communities to collaboratively to report on local events such as festivals and town hall meetings.
One of the first challenges we encountered when testing NewsPad in the wild, was the difficulty of bootstrapping these collective action efforts to produce even lightweight articles in the form of lists, also referred to as listicles.
We decided to explore this challenge using on-demand, location-based labor through TaskRabbit. We were able to produce articles about the events in under an hour, and for less than $100. Here we share some of initial reflections after running a few experiments.
Screenshot of report of a neighborhood festival
For the past two years, social media platforms have been rolling out machine translation, enabling multilingual interactions. However, the people interacting in these platforms often know each other already, and have a language in common (i.e., friends). But what happens when machine translation is used to facilitate interactions among strangers, who perhaps have common interests but not a common language?
The earliest social media platform to enable machine translation was probably Facebook, which began autotranslating conversations in Facebook pages (a good place to start given that Pages are more likely to bring people who speak different languages together). Likewise, Google+ and Twitter later released similar features, enabling, for example, Spanish-speaking Twitter users to read the tweets from the now toppled Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, translated from Arabic to Spanish:
How often do these types of multilingual interactions occur? Ethan Zuckerman posed a similar question when wondering what the numbers were for machine translations, in the context of a discussion about the challenges of having people pay attention to content outside their immediate reach.
With that in mind, we decided to look into some numbers using data from our own social media platform: Socl, which started offering machine translation since last year. Socl, like Twitter, often brings strangers together who might not speak the same language, example:
UPDATE: Video recording of the talk is now available.
This coming Thursday, Ryan Acton, a computational sociology professor at UMass Amherst, is coming to give a talk on his work investigating “digital traces” online. Ryan has been studying network dynamics on websites such as epinions.com, and last.fm. For example, he’s been analyzing group formation around concerts advertised in last.fm and built an R package called scrapeR to collect data directly from R.
FUSE Labs, in collaboration with the iConference, is offering a $3,000 travel award for each team selected to participate in the 2014 Social Media Expo in Berlin. Teams must be from one of the member institutions. More info here.
The teams need to submit a 4-page paper along with a video, that incorporate user research, design, prototyping, and/or system evaluation around topics such as:
The projects must explore a technological solution to meeting a concrete need or opportunity around the theme of leveraging social media to foster a smarter society.
UPDATE: Video of this presentation is now available online.
Next week we have Alex Schulz from the Technical University of Darmstadt who will giving a talk about his work on using social media data along with machine learning, and semantic dictionaries (i.e., WordNet), to automatically detect small scale incidents, such as car crashes, shootings, and fires.
I saw Alex present a paper co-authored with Petar Ristoski at ICWSM during a really interesting workshop titled When the City Meets the Citizen. In that paper they analyzed Twitter data from Seattle and Memphis. One of their findings was that average citizens (labeled I and blue in the figure below) were often the first to report shootings (53% of the time), much earlier than other people that one would expect such as Emergency Management Organzations (EMO), journalists/bloggers devoted to emergencies (EMJ), general journalists/bloggers, or other types of governmental and non-governmental organizations (ORG).