April 9 | Disentangling User Choice and Algorithmic Curation in Online Systems

Tuesday, April 9, 2024
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Moghadam Room 123, 615 Crothers Way on Stanford Campus.

Ronald E. Robertson

Join the Cyber Policy Center on April 9th from Noon–1PM Pacific with speaker Ronald E. Robertson for Disentangling User Choice and Algorithmic Curation in Online Systems. The session will be moderated by Jeff Hancock, co director of the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, and is part of the Spring Seminar Series, a series spanning April through June hosted at the Cyber Policy Center. Sessions are in-person and virtual, via Zoom and streamed via YouTube, with in-person attendance offered to Stanford affiliates only. Lunch is provided for in-person attendance and registration is required. Sessions will take place in Encina Commons, Moghadam Room 123, 615 Crothers Way on Stanford Campus.

Widespread concerns about the systems that mediate our access to online information are often discussed in metaphorically compelling but operationally limited terms. Among the most prominent of such concerns, are the loosely defined concepts known as echo chambers, filter bubbles, and rabbit holes, all of which focus on the role that online systems play in spreading partisan, unreliable, or extremist information. In this talk Robertson examines how these concepts, and concerns about the impact of online systems more broadly, can be better understood and measured in terms of user choice (what people do) and algorithmic curation (what people see). To do so, he provides an overview of research that examines user choice and algorithmic curation in isolation and under controlled conditions, as well as recent research that examines how humans and algorithms interact under ecological conditions. Robertson will also discuss the implications that the findings from these studies have for researchers and policy makers, the challenges presented by new and ever-evolving systems for accessing online information, and the need for independent, ongoing, and long-term research to better understand how people interact with online systems.

About the Speaker

Ronald designs experiments and software to study the ways in which humans and algorithms interact in digital spaces, especially as they pertain to online information seeking. He is currently a research scientist at the Stanford Internet Observatory and obtained his PhD in Network Science from Northeastern University, where he was advised by Christo Wilson, a computer scientist, and David Lazer, a political scientist. His research aims to help us better understand the intersection of user choice, algorithmic curation, and choice architecture in online platforms including web search engines and social media sites and has been published in top journals, including Nature, Science Advances, PNAS, and in conference proceedings, such as the Proceedings of the ACM: Human-Computer Interaction, the Proceedings of the Web Conference (WWW), and Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM).