Archive | February, 2021

11 February 2021 ~ 0 Comments

PhD Call: Combat Disinformation in Complex Social Systems

The IT University of Copenhagen has put out a call searching for people interested in starting a PhD in computer science in Fall 2021. One of the projects you could work on is my project on disinformation and social networks. You should apply if you think you: might be interested in pursuing a PhD related to misinformation and social media; like the idea of living in the happiest country in the world; and are ok with having a clueless supervisor like me. Link to apply.

The easiest way to figure out what sort of things you’d be doing is by reading my post on the topic of the PhD project. To sum it up briefly: in the first paper of this project, Luca Rossi and I made an agent-based model, simulating the way social media handle misinformation via flagging. We show that the system is counterproductive: its mechanics end up penalizing mostly popular and neutral news sources. Luca will be your co-supervisor, so you’d be working with a real social scientist who has an actual clue about what’s going on.

This project is born out of the idea to make that paper into an actual research program. There are a few paths that are all worth exploring and require a person giving them their full time attention. A few ideas:

  • Expand the agent-based model to make it more realistic and to enable it to answer more interesting questions (what if users and sources change their polarity? What if one side is less tolerant than the other? What if tolerance changes over time? What if…?);
  • Find real-world data and use it to validate, motivate, or find ideas on how to expand the model and its results;
  • Design intervention strategies for social media platforms that are less counterproductive than the ones currently deployed.

The position is fully funded by ITU, so it’s a pretty safe path for 3 to 4 years. The group where I work, NERDS, is full of amazing professionals doing extremely cool research, publishing in Nature, collaborating with UNICEF, and the like. We’re fun, really.

Link to apply, where you should specify that you want to work on the “Modelling Complex Social Systems to Handle Disinformation” project. I hope you’ll give it a thought!

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09 February 2021 ~ 0 Comments

The Atlas for the Aspiring Network Scientist v1.1

Last month I put out in public my Atlas for the Aspiring Network Scientist. The reaction to it was very pleasant and people contacted me with a number of corrections, opinions, and comments. I just uploaded to arXiV a version 1.1 of it, doing my best to address whatever could be addressed quickly. The PDF on the official website is also updated and, in fact, that link will always direct you to the most up-to-date version.

Corrections involve mostly some notation, a few references, and the like. One important thing I want to point out is my rephrasing/retraction of some humorous parts. I still stand by my decision of using humor, but not when it comes at the expense of the feeling of inclusiveness in the community. Science is a social process and everyone should feel welcome to it. Using language that opposes that aim is a net loss for society. One example is in the chapter about tools, where some ruvid humor didn’t paint the correct picture: these open source tools are fantastic gifts to the community and should be unequivocally celebrated. All remaining jokes are about the self-deprecation I feel every day from my inability to measure up to the awesome fellows behind these libraries/software.

One thing that was flagged to me but I couldn’t touch was references. There are just too many for me to check them all. I’m asking your help: if you find some issue with references (missing information, or things like editors as authors, etc), please write me flagging the specific reference with the issue: mcos@itu.dk.

I’m also glad to announce that you can buy a physical copy of the book, in case you need it handy for whatever reason. This is only v1, though, so all corrections mentioned above are not included. When v2 will come out, I’ll also make that available for physical purchase. The book was printed via IngramSpark, thus there’s a good chance you can find it for sale & shipping almost everywhere. For instance, it is available on Amazon or, if you’re in Denmark (where I live), on Saxo. You could even buy it on friggin’ Walmart.

The final object’s quality is… eh. Some of it is by design: I wanted this to be as accessible as possible. You’ll hardly find another 650+ color pages book in US Letter format for less than $40. Compromises needed to be made. However, most of the things making it a clearly amateurish product are my fault. Take a look at the left margin in the back cover:

Eww… Also, since I had to upload the cover separately, I didn’t remember to include a blank page. So the left pages are on the right and vice versa. Which makes page numbers practically invisible in the middle:

That said, if you ignore everything that makes this book ugly, it’s actually pretty nice:

Also, apologies to your backs, but this thing is hyuuuge. It’s as tall as a half-kilo pack of bucatini and twice as thick (packs of bucatini are a standard unit of measure in Italy):

Finally, I would love to give a shout out to everyone I interacted with after the book came out. Everyone was super nice and/or super helpful, most were both. I discovered many things I wasn’t aware of. One of them is NETfrix, a network science podcast by super cool fellow Asaf Shapira. The podcast has transcripts in English available here.

That’s it for now! Hopefully new research posts will follow soon.

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