An unprecedented online data collection project is underway

An interdisciplinary group of researchers at Northeastern University has embarked on an ambitious multi-million dollar project project To study the way people behave online – and thus how the internet behaves again.

thanks for the A grant of $15.7 million from National Science Foundation, the team began recruiting volunteers for an online data collection project, which will involve monitoring the online experiences of tens of thousands of volunteer users through a web browser extension that researchers build, then documenting and analyzing the results. When all is said and done, the data collected will be available to scientists around the world and across disciplines for research purposes, according to the foundation’s mandate for the project.

“That’s a huge part missing from the internet study,” he says. David LazerDistinguished University Professor of Political Science and Computer Science, and Co-Director of Nolab for texts, maps and gridswho leads the project.

The money is now used to buildNational Internet Observatory. “

Headshot by David Lazer (left) and David Chauvins (right)
Portraits of David Lazer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Sciences, and Associate Professor David Chauvins. Adam Glanzmann/Northeastern University

“The observatory enables a broad range of internet-related research, including examination of the state of the information ecosystem, analysis of harmful online behavior of a variety of species, and general studies of multiple aspects of the internet world,” the researchers wrote in the observatory. their suggestion.

Lazer says there are many research questions driving the project forward as it relates to these goals. Like how much does Twitter, for example, amplify some voices and accounts over others? Or how often does Google direct people to high reliability resources versus low reliability resources?

The researchers also hope to learn more about how information systems and algorithms enable users to find information — reports, comments, and other sources — that fits their ideologies. This is referred to as “filter bubble“The effect that experts They referred to it as a contributing factor to political polarization and broader social divisions.

The researchers’ primary motivation is to explore and, where possible, separate “human and algorithmic selection” on the Internet. As it relates to, the monitoring project will help researchers gain “insight into what people choose to do” when using social media platforms, “but also what the platforms do in return,” Lazer says.

All this will happen without compromising the personal privacy of the volunteers involved.

Other collaborators on the project include Christo WilsonAssociate Professor of Computer Science; David ChauvinsAssociate Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director of Institute of Cyber ​​Security and Privacy; John Basel, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University; and Michelle Meyer, bioethicist at Geisinger Health System. Lazer, Wilson, and Choffnes are the principal investigators on the project.

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